Somalia drought leaves one in four children hungry - UN

Somali children in refugee camp (file photo) Thousands of Somalis have fled their homes after years of drought and violence

Children in Somalia are suffering some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, says the United Nations as drought continues to affect the country.

An UN official told the BBC about two and a half million people had been affected.

She said there had been complete crop failure in southern Somalia and that many had lost their livelihoods.

The country has also been ravaged by two decades of violence.

Many people are leaving rural areas to search for work in Somali towns, while others are quitting the country altogether - going to Kenya and Yemen, said Grainne Moloniy of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation.

"One in four children is malnourished - that's one of the highest rates in the world," she told the BBC's World Today programme.

The rains have either failed or been inadequate for several seasons, fields are parched, and livestock - the mainstay of the economy - are dying.

People are become more dependent on remittances from their Somali relatives abroad, Ms Moloniy said.

However, the Somali diaspora has been hit by the global economic crisis, and in the past few years has been unable to send as much money home.

UN agencies and other humanitarian groups are also short of funds - the UN has only raised a third of what it needs for food aid for Somalia, Ms Moloniy said.

With no end to the drought in sight, and insecurity continuing in many parts of Somalia, it is likely the situation will get worse before it gets better, says BBC Africa analyst Mary Harper.

The country has experienced more than 20 years of conflict, with Islamist insurgents fighting forces of the transitional government, backed by peacekeepers from the African Union.

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