1.25m+ kids at risk in Somali drought
Nairobi - The UN children's agency warned on Friday that 1.25 million children in urgent need of life-saving support in drought-struck southern Somalia must be made a "top priority".
"The children of southern Somalia desperately need our help," Unicef Somalia representative Rozanne Chorlton said in a statement, warning that 640 000 children are acutely malnourished.
"Too many of them have already died and many others are at great risk unless we act now," she added.
Somalia is the Horn of Africa country worst affected by an extreme drought that has put some 12 million people in danger of starvation across the region and spurred a global fund-raising campaign.
Nearly half of Somalia's estimated 10 million people are in need of relief assistance, owing to the effects of relentless violence and the drought that prompted the United Nations to declare famine for the first time this century.
"Families shouldn’t have to leave their homes, mothers and their children shouldn’t have to endure days of perilous journey in search of food and water and then face a life of uncertainty in a camp," Chorlton added.
"All our energy should be focused on saving lives."
But the scope of the catastrophe is huge and delivering aid to one of the most dangerous countries in the world is difficult.
The two famine-struck southern Somali regions of southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle are both controlled by Islamist Shebab rebels who have banned several key aid agencies.
Thousands of Somalis continue to stream into neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya seeking food and water, and up to 100 000 people have fled into Mogadishu over the last two months, according to the UN refugee agency.
However, Unicef has mounted a "massive scale up of its operation" alongside local partners in Somalia to bring in enough high-energy food for 65 000 children into southern Somalia.
Six Unicef flights and two ships have delivered high-energy food this month, with supplies reaching Shabaab controlled areas.
"Although we have challenges, we are reaching children," Chorlton added.