MOGADISHU, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Two UN agencies Friday appealed to international community to scale up humanitarian assistance to help drought-hit Somalia avert another "catastrophe."
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF) said they would need more than 450 million U.S. dollars to be able to provide urgent assistance required in the coming months.
"Humanitarian assistance has saved lives in the drought-affected north over the past year, but as the crisis spreads we have no time to lose," WFP Country Director Laurent Bukera said in a statement issued in Mogadishu
"Together with UNICEF and other partners, we are moving as quickly as possible to reach many more people with lifesaving support using every option we have, including cash-based transfers, specialized nutrition support and airlifting of relief goods," said the statement.
According to the agencies, the drought that the northern regions have struggled with for the last year has now spread throughout Somalia, threatening an already fragile population battered by decades of conflict.
About 6.2 million people or almost half the country's population are either severely food insecure or in need of livelihood support.
It is expected that 944,000 children will be acutely malnourished this year, including 185,000 who will be severely malnourished and in need of urgent lifesaving support.
Steven Lauwerier, the UNICEF Somalia Representative, said huge numbers of Somalis have come to the end of all their possible resources and are living hand-to-mouth.
"We have a small window of opportunity to avert this looming catastrophe and save children's lives and we are determined to work with all partners and stakeholders to succeed," Lauwerier said.
The UNICEF and WFP representatives this week have been visiting some of the worst-affected areas in the northern Puntland region, where the two agencies are delivering much-needed assistance.
The two agencies said funds have been generously provided by international donors from Europe, Asia, North America and the UN system for life-saving services in nutrition, food security, health, education, water and sanitation.
"The ongoing drought and other shocks have left communities with little to no resources to fall back on. Whole villages have lost their crops or seen their livestock die," said the agencies.
The prices of water and locally produced food have risen dramatically, and thousands of people are on the move in search of food and water.
The agencies noted that humanitarian access remains worryingly limited in some drought-affected areas of the south, but they are reinforcing joint efforts to scale up the response in areas that are accessible, where millions of lives are at risk.