The number of young children in Somalia facing severe acute malnutrition has increased to over half a million – a level which is higher than a 2011 famine when tens of thousands of children died, UN agencies said today, Reuters reported.
"We've got more than half a million children facing preventable death. It's a pending nightmare," James Elder, spokesperson for the UN children's agency UNICEF said at a Geneva press briefing, saying this level had not been seen in any country yet this century.
The UN has warned that parts of the country will be hit by famine in the coming months as the Horn of Africa region faces a fifth consecutive failed rainy season. Somalia's 2011 famine claimed more than a quarter of a million lives, around half of whom were children.
An official in one Somali region described famished people walking long distances with children on their shoulders to escape from drought and violence inflicted by Al Shabaab militants. Some children died along the way.
UNICEF said disease outbreaks were increasing among children, with around 13,000 suspected measles cases reported in recent months of which 78 per cent were children under five.