File photo taken on May 8, 2015 shows that then UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres (2nd L) is welcomed by Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
MOGADISHU, May 11 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for increased humanitarian response and further funding to help avert looming famine in Somalia.
In a statement issued on the eve of the London Somalia Conference, Guterres called for strengthening of the partnership between the international community, Somalia government and humanitarian partners to prevent famine.
"Thanks to early generous funding provided by countries across the globe, we have managed to avert a famine so far. But the level of suffering is unimaginable and we fear the worst," he said in a statement released in Mogadishu.
The Horn of Africa nation is facing a prolonged drought which has left 6.7 million people which is more than half the population of the country, in need of humanitarian assistance.
The situation continues to deteriorate and the possibility of famine in 2017 remains very real, despite an already massive scale-up of assistance since the beginning of the year.
The UN chief and Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed will present a revised humanitarian response plan to prevent famine in Somalia, to international partners at the London Somalia Conference on Thursday.
The revised plan seeks 1.5 billion U.S. dollars to reach 5.5 million people with life-saving assistance in 2017.
In response to the early alarm that Somalia is at risk of famine, donors have generously provided 672 million dollars since the beginning of the year, leaving a gap of 875 million dollars.
Refugees gather to watch UN High Commissioner for Refugee Antonio Guterres' visiting delegation at Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya, May 8, 2015. Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp in northeastern Kenya, currently houses some 350,000 people. For more than 20 years, it has been home to generations of Somalis who have fled their homeland wracked by conflicts. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
According to UN, over 680,000 people have been displaced due to drought in Somalia since November 2016, bringing the total number to 1.8 million.
Major disease outbreaks are spreading, with over 36,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea (AWD)/cholera and 7,000 cases of suspected measles so far this year. Acute malnutrition is increasing in most parts of the country.
"With the resources received thus far, there has been a massive scale-up of the response and millions of people at risk of starvation and disease are being reached with assistance and protection," said the UN.
It said further funding is still required to reach millions of people in urgent need of assistance as the current rainy season is expected to produce below-normal harvest.