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Somali Starvation Displacing Hungry

FILE: A Somali refugee girl on a donkey fleeing the Somali capital due to hunger, to a refugee camp, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Aid groups in Somalia are warning that once again in 2022, seasonal rains are failing and mass hunger could grow.

About 7.1 million Somalis -- nearly half the population -- are battling hunger, with more than 200,000 on the brink of starvation, according to UN figures issued earlier this month.

The international community is "sleepwalking" towards a catastrophic famine in Somalia, and children are dying because hospitals are at breaking point, the charity Save the Children warned on Thursday.

"Famine is bearing down on Somalia and clinics for malnourished children are close to breaking point. Children are dying now and we're in a race to stop that from happening," Save the Children's country director Mohamud Mohamed Hassan said in a statement.

Some 386,000 children face severe malnutrition, the UK-based charity said.

Some aid groups are warning that the crisis could be worse than the 2011 famine in Somalia that killed 260,000 people -- half of them children under the age of six.

The drought has also forced more than 800,000 people to flee their homes in search of help since January 2021, according to UN figures.

Aid agencies say there is a dire lack of international funding for Somalia, with calls for donations so far raising less than 30 percent of the estimated $1.46 billion needed to tackle the crisis.

Somalia and its neighbors in the Horn of Africa including Ethiopia and Kenya are experiencing the worst drought in more than 40 years following four failed rainy seasons that have decimated crops and livestock.

One of the poorest countries on the planet, Somalia is plagued by the effects of climate change and has been badly affected by the war in Ukraine that has hit global grain supplies and sent prices of basic foods and fuel soaring.

Save the Children called on the Group of Seven club of the world's richest nations meeting in Germany from this weekend to make tackling hunger and malnutrition in Somalia and across East Africa a priority.

The appeal for international aid was echoed by Norwegian Refugee Council head Jan Egeland after a visit to Somalia.

"Donors, including the neighboring Gulf countries, need to dig deep and fast before the predictions of mass starvation become fatal figures of shame," Egeland said in a statement Thursday.