PORTLAND, Maine — As famine again tightens its grip in several war-torn African nations, members of Maine’s Somali community last week filled the basement of the Portland Public Library to ask one of the top U.S diplomats to the region how American policy toward their homeland might change.

Somali community leaders had prepared a wide-ranging list of questions for Stephen Schwartz covering U.S. military actions in Somalia, alleged corruption among aid organizations, banks blocking cash transfers to the country, the deportation of Somali nationals and President Trump’s policies, but they only had time to ask the ambassador a few of them.

In recent months, conflict in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen have driven those countries to or over the brink of abject famine. The United Nations has said the largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years could put 20 million people at risk of starvation.

In Maine, many African immigrants count their friends and family among this number. And there is deep anxiety that President Trump’s promise to cut funding to the United Nations will lesson the flow of crucial aid to the region.

On Wednesday the roughly 50 Somali Mainers gathered at the library were pleased that America’s first ambassador to the country in 25 years was not mincing words about the matter.

“Much of Somalia is one step before famine, or two steps before famine,” said Schwartz. “It’s very severe.”

Schwartz said that the United States and its allies learned from the last famine in Somalia that is estimated to have killed 260,000 people between 2010 and 2012. This time, with 2.9 million Somalis facing food shortages and drought, the countries have sent more aid earlier, he said. Meanwhile, efforts to drive the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab out of the cities and ports have made it easier to move money and goods around the country.

Deqa Dhalac, an organizer with the Somali Community Center of Maine, was pleased that Schwartz had come to address the community directly, but was worried about efforts to coordinate aid, especially in regions beyond government control. “We need policies coming from the U.S. and the U.N. and the Somali government,” said Dhalac.

The new administration is presently locked in court battles over holds placed on the president’s executive order temporarily barring immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, including Somalia. Beyond this, Schwartz said he hasn’t seen changes in U.S. policy towards the country. He said that change might come, but didn’t get specific.

One area where Trump has promised change is in America’s dealing with the U.N. The administration last week said that it would withhold $32.5 million in funding earmarked for U.N. Population Fund, the international body’s lead agency on family planning and maternal health. And Trump has proposed even larger cuts to the U.N. as part of his America-focused budget proposal.

If passed by Congress, those cuts would likely affect the World Food Program, to which America is the largest contributor, and could have devastating consequences for famine-stricken regions, according to the agency’s outgoing executive director.

“Trump has said, ‘I’ll cut off a lot of money,’” said Bashir Shuriye, of the Somali Community Center of Maine. “If they end up ignoring Somalia, that’s a problem.”

After discussing American policy with members of the Somali community, Schwartz declined to answer a reporter’s question about how cuts to U.N. funding would affect the country, saying he was not authorized to speak with the press.

Abdifatah Ahmed, who heads the New Mainers Alliance in Lewiston, where Schwartz spoke last Thursday, said that people in his home country want to support themselves but need help through what he called a “man-made” famine.

In Somalia and other African countries, the effect of cutting aid is obvious, Ahmed said.

“People are dying desperately,” he said.