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Somalia declares 'national disaster' over drought

More than 6.2 million people in need of urgent humanitarian aid, including nearly three million who are going hungry.

Somalia's new leader has declared a national disaster for a prolonged drought that has forced about half of the country's population to seek urgent food assistance and sparked fears of a potential famine.

The announcement on Tuesday by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's office came a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that Somalia was at risk of its third famine in 25 years - the last one in 2011 killed some 260,000 people.

"The president has appealed to the international community to urgently respond to the calamity in order to help families and individuals to recover from the effects of the drought disaster to avoid humanitarian tragedy," read a statement from the presidency.


EXPLAINER: What is a famine?


According to WHO, more than 6.2 million people - half of Somalia's population - needed urgent humanitarian aid, including almost three million who are going hungry.

The agency said more than 363,000 acutely malnourished children and 70,000 severely malnourished children needed urgent, life-saving support.

Somalia is one of three countries, along with Yemen and Nigeria, on the verge of famine which has already been declared in South Sudan.

Last week, the UN said more than 20 million people face starvation in the four countries, adding it needed $4.4bn by the end of next month to prevent "a catastrophe" of hunger and famine.

Aid agencies are concerned that the drought is exacerbating the country's on-going humanitarian crisis, while there are reports that the ongoing conflict with the al-Shabab armed group is further blocking access to food.


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