A refugee mother and her child look outside of a window at a hospital in Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya, May 8, 2015. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
NAIROBI, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- About 6.5 million children are at risk of hunger in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia due to severe drought that is ravaging several parts of the Horn of Africa region, Save the Children has warned.
The charity said in a statement received in Nairobi on Monday that nearly half a million children in the region are already suffering from severe malnutrition.
"Thousands of families (in Somalia) are on the move in search of food and water, and many are now crossing the border into Ethiopia -- which is dealing with its own effects of the drought -- in search of help," it said.
Several seasons of either failed or erratic rainfall have led to severe water shortages and the death of livestock, leaving nearly 15 million people across the three countries in urgent need of assistance.
According to the charity, 77 percent of children being screened on arrival in Dollo Ado camp are showing signs of malnutrition.
It said with the next rainy season expected to bring below-average rainfall across the region, the situation for already desperate children and families in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya will only get worse, leaving millions at risk of hunger, and even death.
"The lives of millions are at stake. We must not allow many of the same past errors that resulted in the deaths of 130,000 children under five during the last Somalia famine alone, to be repeated," said John Graham, Ethiopia Country Director for Save the Children.
With nearly half its population (five million people) facing severe food and water shortages, the charity said Somalia is now on the verge of a famine.
Malnutrition rates across Somalia have already reached critical levels and are expected to worsen in the coming weeks.
In Ethiopia, the drought is forcing many children to drop out of school, leaving them at risk of early marriage and forced migration.
While the Ethiopian government worked to mitigate the effects of last year's drought, the country is appealing for 948 million U.S. dollars in funding -- of which it has already committed over 47 million dollars -- to help 5.6 million people in need.
In Kenya, more than 1.25 million people are in urgent need of food, with hunger levels expected to worsen over the coming months.
Save the Children said it's working to alleviate the effects of the drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, including support for refugees crossing from Somalia into Ethiopia's Dollo Ado camp.