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Page last updated at 07:20 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 08:20 UK

Somalia 'worst drought in decade'

A child with malnutrition and diarrhoea at the Banadir hospital in Mogadishu on 19 March 2009
Some 3.2 million Somalis need life-saving food aid, says the UN

Somalia is facing its worst drought for at least a decade, says the UN.

Satellite surveys of rainfall and ground research show the drought's severity, said UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden.

He said many cattle were dying from the lack of water, and that this was contributing to nearly half the population suffering from malnutrition.

Mr Bowden said humanitarian assistance to Somalia needed to start "increasing dramatically".

He said that Somalis were not currently dying of starvation but some 3.2 million of the population needed life-saving food assistance.

"We're now facing a drought in Somalia that is worse than people have seen for at least a decade," Mr Bowden said.

"Roughly 45% of the [Somali] population is suffering from moderate malnutrition."

In parts of central and southern Somalia, 24% of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition, he told a news briefing in Geneva.

Some 1.1 million people in Somalia have been driven from their homes because of conflict in recent years.

Since the weekend thousands of civilians have fled fierce fighting in the capital Mogadishu between Islamist militants and the government.



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