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Wednesday, 12 April, 2000, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
Famine devastates Somali family
By Martin Dawes in Waajid, south-west Somalia

Aday spoke as she suckled her severely malnourished one-year-old son: "I have six children", she said, "and two have died from hunger".

She had walked for 10 days to get to the mother-and-child clinic in Waajid town, which is assisted by the United Nations children's agency Unicef.

In Waajid, latest figures show the child malnutrition to be 25% per cent - a symptom of the drought affecting large parts of the Horn of Africa.

The workers there have seen a steady increase in the numbers of children needing food supplements.

They expect to have registered 1,000 by the end of the month.

There is such a shortage of food that it is usual for the special-high protein ration to be used by all the family.

Few hopes

"The number of children discharged is very low," said Jonathan Beech of Unicef.

"Some have been coming here for six months."

The farmland, 30km (20 miles) outside Waajid, should be some of the most productive in Somalia, but the sorghum harvest has failed for the past five years and the dry soil is whipped into dust-clouds.

The farmers have little expectation that this season's harvest will yield anything.

There have been some scattered rains but that is not enough. Heavy falls are needed if crops are to be grown.

People in this region used to travel across the border to Ethiopia in times as hard as these, but with the entire region gripped by drought that is not an option.

The World Food Program is pre-positioning food stocks, international agencies are preparing for a severe emergency.

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"Day by day her child is slipping away"
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