Life-threatening child malnutrition rates are rising to alarming levels in drought-hit Somalia, the international aid group Save the Children said Thursday.
A new survey found "very critical" levels of severe malnutrition in two of six districts assessed in some of the worst affected parts of Somalia.
"We are on the brink of a massive catastrophe in Somalia with the death of three quarters of the country's livestock, a rapid increase of children suffering severe malnutrition and the depletion of water stores in dozens of communities," said Hassan Saadi Noor, Save the Children's Somalia country director, who said he fears seeing "children dying in significant numbers."
Less than 10 percent of children in Somalia are currently registered in a nutrition program according to the study, which warns that children could start dying "in the near future" unless immediate action is taken such as a major and rapid scaling up of feeding schemes.
"Donors have stepped up in recent months, however such is the scale of this crisis that even more funding is needed to address malnutrition directly, including improving access to food and water," said Noor. "Children must be treated for malnutrition now ... Famine is a distinct possibility for Somalia. It is an absolute travesty that this is even conceivable when just six years ago this same region was hit by a famine that killed over 250,000 people."
The drought has left 6.2 million people - more than half of the population of Somalia - in need of immediate lifesaving assistance and a further 8.3 million in Kenya and Ethiopia are also need of urgent help, he said.