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241,000 children hungry in drought-ravaged Somalia

Hundreds of thousands of children in are going hungry in what is being called one of the worst droughts in living memory.

Urgent action is needed to prevent suffering in Somalia, warns a group of 31 aid organisations including Save the Children, Oxfam and World Vision.

Some 241,000 children are acutely malnourished in the horn of Africa country and 57,000 of these are severely malnourished, say the aid groups. And about 2.4 million Somalis, one third of the country, need aid they warn.

But it is difficult to gauge the full extent of the situation, said Oxfam’s Geno Teofilo. "That is difficult to figure at this point since access to some of the worst-hit areas is difficult for relief agencies," Teofilo told the Voice of America. "What we do know is that this drought has caused a lot of displacement. More than 50,000 Somalis have been displaced in recent months. Some of them have been internally displaced within Somalia - going to Mogadishu in search of food. Others have fled across the border to Ethiopia or Kenya."

Farmers across east Africa have been waiting since March for the long rains which they rely on for survival throughout the rest of the year. For most of east Africa, those rains have finally arrived, but it may be too late for Somalia. In the Horn of Africa, the drought was so devastating that nearly a third of the country now faces what experts call a ‘food crises. Cattle are dying and cereal prices rocketing, because the rains are late and not heavy enough.

East Africa is prone to serious droughts, “but this one has been called the worst in a couple of decades," said Teofilo. "Although the rains have started there recently, there is going to be a major food gap until the next harvest comes along. It has really gone beyond a drought, now it is a food crisis."

Four months ago, Mohamed Ali, a farmer in Lower Shabelle Region had 250 cattle. And now their dead bodies are strewn round the fields next to his home, and he has no money coming in to feed his children. He has slaughtered his last cow to sell its hide for the equivalent of just over £1. He has now used up his last chance to make money to feed his children.

"I have lost everything," he told the BBC.

Across the country, thousands of farmers like him are in a similar situation.

Hayley attribution