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Emergency famine talks

Emergency talks are starting today in Rome as aid agencies battle to help nearly 12 million people on the brink of starvation.

The UN Food agency will meet global aid agencies to discuss the worsening Horn of Africa crisis, as pressure mounts for world leaders to boost aid for millions on the brink of starvation.

What aid agencies are calling the worst drought in 60 years, has devastated war-torn Somalia and parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

It has killed tens of thousands of people over the last few months, forcing desperate survivors to walk for weeks in search of food and water.

More than 11 million people need food aid, said the United Nations.

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis, mostly children, will die if the world fails to provide aid, said Australia’s Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd appealing to the world to help avoid a catastrophe.

The United Nations last week declared a famine in southern Somalia's Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions, and said nearly half of Somalia's population needs urgent aid. And five more regions in southern Somalia are on the brink of famine, The World Health Organisation said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called on the international community to come up with $1.6 billion (about £98 billion) in aid for southern Somalia’s two famine zones.

If nothing is done now, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which is organising the talks in Italy's capital, warns the situation will deteriorate. And even though the EU has made recent aid promises, aid agencies say more needs to be raised, and fast.

On Saturday the International Committee of the Red Cross said it had managed to hand out 400 tonnes of food aid in the area, enough for 4,000 families or about 24,000 people.

Those expected to attend the talks include ministers from Djibouti, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, FAO director Jacques Diouf, the head of the World Food Programme Josette Sheeran, and Oxfam chief executive Barbara Stocking. As well as emergency aid, they will also talk about long-term solutions for the crisis — such as help for farmers, and bringing in more drought-resistant crops and measures to control the soaring food prices.

The Red Cross has so far managed to get food for 24,000 people to a town, north west of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, the BBC reported. It is one of the country’s worst hit areas and is under the control of the Islamist group, al-Shabab.

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