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Somalia's president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declares drought a national disaster

Somali women walk after receiving rations at a displaced camp in Mogadishu Somalia. Picture by Mohamed Sheikh Nor, Associated Press
Abdi Guled, Press Association

Somalia's new president has declared a national disaster over a drought that threatens millions of people and is creating fears of a full-blown famine.

The statement from the office of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said he has appealed for help from the international community and Somalia's diaspora of two million.

Combating the drought is a priority for Mr Mohamed, who was elected this month to lead the fragile Horn of Africa nation, which is also coping with attacks by Islamic extremist group al-Shabab.

The United Nations humanitarian office estimates that five million people in Somalia, or nearly half the country's population, need aid.

About 363,000 acutely malnourished children "need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished", said the US Agency for International Development's Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

Thousands have been streaming into Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, in search of food aid, overwhelming local and international aid agencies.

More than 7,000 internally displaced people checked into one feeding centre recently.

Because of a lack of clean water in many areas, there is the additional threat of cholera and other diseases, UN experts say.

The government earlier this month said the widespread hunger "makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks".

The UN humanitarian appeal for 2017 for Somalia is $864 million (£694m) to provide assistance to 3.9 million people.

But last month, the UN World Food Programme requested an additional $26m (£21m) plan to respond to the drought.

Somalia was one of four regions singled out by the UN secretary-general this month in a $4.4 billion (£3.5bn) aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with north-east Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

All are connected by a thread of violent conflict, the UN chief said.

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