Somali girls collect water at a well in Wajid region in southern Somalia
David Mwangi  /  Reuters file
Somali girls collect water at a well in Wajid region in southern Somalia on Jan. 23, 2006. Insecurity and an unstable government in Somalia are hindering delivery of humanitarian aid and 1.7 million people face starvation, a senior U.N. official said on Tuesday. 
updated 3/21/2006 10:37:28 AM ET 2006-03-21T15:37:28

The United Nations appealed Tuesday for nearly $327 million in aid to help starving people in southern Somalia, which is suffering its worst drought in a decade.

About 2.1 million people are coping with severe food shortages caused by prolonged drought, war, displacement, flooding and human rights abuses, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“This current drought is unprecedented in 10 years, and the impact it is having on food, water, health, education and livelihoods is alarming,” said Christian Balslev-Olesen, the world body’s acting humanitarian coordinator for Somalia.

“With a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, the humanitarian community needs to scale up its current response exponentially.”

Drought tips balance in instable region
Somalia has not had an effective central government since opposition leaders ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. They then turned on each other, carving the nation into a patchwork of clan-based fiefdoms.

Since then, persistent local conflicts have eroded Somali livelihoods. Infant, child and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Medicines also are needed to prevent a measles outbreak and curb the spread of polio in the region, Balslev-Olesen said.

“This is a race against the clock to stem the tide of human misery,” he said.

The drought has tipped the balance in the highly impoverished border areas where Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya meet. Those areas include Gedo, Middle and Lower Juba, and parts of Bay and Bakool, the world body said.

The United Nations says more than 11.5 million people will require food assistance in the next six months. Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government needs to do more to ensure security so aid organizations can operate effectively, Balslev-Olesen said.

The United Nations also said it needed $225 million to feed 3.5 million Kenyans over the next year, but it so far has received only about $75 million.

The European Commission on Tuesday donated about $6 million to help provide food aid to Kenya.

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