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Somalia nears famine

Desperate for food, people in drought-hit Somalia are being told to eat leaves as the country edges closer to officially declaring a famine.

The whole of the horn of Africa region has been hit by the worst drought in 60 years, according to aid groups. This has left more than 11 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and the newly formed Republic of South Sudan in urgent need of food, water and emergency healthcare.

In Somalia alone, at least four million lives are at threat and government officials have resorted to advising people to eat leaves to survive, according to the BBC.

As the situation worsens, Aid agencies are now talking about declaring a famine in Somalia for the first time since 1992. That year, in the midst of a vicious civil war, more than 200,000 people died.

But many more could be threatened this time round. Mainly because of the amount of cattle that have died as well, according to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Most Somalis are travelling herders and more than 65% of people depend on their animals to survive.

In some areas of Somalia, about 80% of livestock has perished, the programme revealed. And most of the surviving animals are too weak to produce milk or be sold. Even the camels have started to die — a sign that other farm animals have little hope.

Facing starvation, Habiba Mohamed Hassan fled the war-torn capital of Mogadishu last week with her children after militias murdered her husband. On her way, militiamen raped women and stole her clothes. The lorry caught fire and she suffered serious burns.

"This drought is worse than previous droughts because this time we don't have anything, we don't have animals because they have all perished away and we don't have any food or source of income and what we do have is stolen by militia," she said.

The Food Security Analysis Unit, which works inside the United Nations, decides when to call a famine. Usually that is when malnutrition rates reach 15per cent. But at some of Somalia’s feeding centres, malnutrition rates have already reached between 25 and 33 per cent, according to Save the Children.

British people have so far donated £9m to an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a group of British charities, for people facing severe food shortages in east Africa.

Hayley attribution