At least 200 children died in the African country since January from drought-caused malnutrition, UN's humanitarian affairs agency says.

Hunger is rising following a fourth consecutive failed rainy season, with 7.1 million people – 45 percent of the population – already acutely food insecure.
Hunger is rising following a fourth consecutive failed rainy season, with 7.1 million people – 45 percent of the population – already acutely food insecure. (AP Archive)

At least 200 children in Somalia have died of malnutrition since January, with the East African country witnessing "catastrophic food insecurity" for the first time since 2017, the UN humanitarian affairs agency has said.

"More than seven million people are affected, up from 6.1 million in May, and over 805,000 are displaced," the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said on Monday. 

Drought conditions have deteriorated following an unprecedented fourth consecutive failed rainy season in eight regions of the country, up from six regions in May this year, bringing the affected families to the brink of famine, according to the UN.

In response to the drought, the UN said its humanitarian partners have launched the Drought Response and Famine Prevention Plan covering May to December 2022 to facilitate the scaling up of life-saving, life-sustaining assistance to prevent famine in the country.

The plan requires $993.3 million to implement and targets 6.4 million people, according to the UN.

"Since January, 3.9 million people have received life-saving assistance. However, the scale of the ongoing response and funding from the international community is not sufficient to sustain the lives of all those at risk," the statement said.

READ MORE: Somalia leader urges world to 'save our people' from looming famine

Increasing humanitarian needs

UN said in the current crisis, late and limited funding is impeding an appropriate increase in assistance.

"The current funding situation ($435.8 million, or 30 percent received), is comparable to 2011 when funding was slow to come in until the declaration of a famine with devastating consequences," the UN said.

As of June 30, the severe drought had affected more than 7 million people, an increase from 6.1 million in May, with over 805,000 displaced.

The UN said the rapidly increasing humanitarian needs require a massive scale-up as its partners transition from a drought response to famine prevention.

Its statement came hours after Somalia appealed for global aid to cope with the deadly drought.

Hunger is rising following a historical fourth consecutive failed rainy season since 2020, with 7.1 million people – 45 percent of the population – already acutely food insecure.

"For the first time since 2017, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) has confirmed pockets of catastrophic food insecurity affecting more than 213,000 people," the UN said.

Somalia is witnessing one of its worst climate crisis-related droughts in four decades that has devastated the country.

During the main period of a devastating famine between May and October 2011, there were more than 20,000 excess deaths per month in southern and central Somalia.

READ MORE: UN warns of 'dire situation' in drought-hit Somalia

Source: AA