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Somalia's Empty Stomachs Face Funding Shorfall

FILE: Somali mother Sahra Muse, 32, comforts her malnourished child Ibrahim Ali, 7, in the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. March 28, 2017. 2022 's drought could cause widespread starvation.

Early intervention is crucial to staving off the famine looming over six areas of Somalia. But speed requires cash. And it is in short supply. The U.N. plan to provide emergency aid is only 15% funded.

So far, 2.8 million people in Somalia have received aid. Another 3.1 million could be helped if more money came in.

The rest are out of reach, residing in parched hinterlands where an Islamist insurgency holds sway.

They are among more than 6 million Somalis who need aid to survive.

After rains failed for four consecutive seasons, the worst drought in 40 years has shriveled their beans and maize and dotted scrubland with the corpses of their goats and donkeys.

"We need the cash to avert the risk of famine," said Rukia Yacoub, deputy director for the World Food Program in East Africa.

With global focus on Ukraine, aid agencies and the United Nations are desperate to attract attention to a calamity they say is shaping up to be comparable to Somalia's 2011 famine. More than a quarter of a million people died then, mostly children under five.

At the Kaxareey camp near the Somali town of Dollow, which sprang up in January and now houses 13,000 people, There is only enough cash for about half the people.

In the camp, people make homes from orange tarpaulins and scraps of cloth and plastic stretched over domes of sticks.

Many families there end up begging a cup of food or a few pennies from those barely better off, but who arrived early enough to register for help.

Hunger often weakens the children before diseases claim them. Asha Ali Osman, 25, lost her three-year-old and four-year-old to measles a month ago.

Now she cradles her youngest, a baby, as she waits to secure the girl a vaccination in Dollow.

"I feel so much pain because I cannot even breastfeed her," she said softly. "When my children are hungry, I can beg some sugar water from a neighbor. Or sometimes we just lie down together, and cry."