Somalia food aid cut amid UN funding shortfall

Internally displaced children outside their family's makeshift shelter at a camp in Mogadishu Thousands of Somalis have fled their homes after years of drought and violence

A shortfall in donations has forced the World Food Programme to cut rations to those dependent on food aid in Somalia, the organisation has said.

A drought which began late last year has left many Somalis short of food. The country has also been ravaged by two decades of violence.

Already, one in four children in the south of the country are severely malnourished.

Aid agencies describe their plight as very serious indeed.

"We began having to cut ration sizes from February, to try and eke out what food we did have coming through the system," WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon said from Nairobi.

"Now, in May, it has really got extremely serious. We have only about 30% of the food that we need to feed the one million people that we were expecting to feed this time of the year.

He said the organisation had been forced to reduce both the number of those it feeds and the ration given to each person.

"In fact we're feeding 66% of the one million people we should be feeding but the amount of food being given out is only 33% of what we should be giving out."

Often Somalis cross into neighbouring Ethiopia, to search for pasture and food.

But an attack on a convoy earlier this month has forced the WFP to cancel its aid distributions.

Until the security situation improves in Ethiopia, these cannot be resumed.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan army has attempted to prevent an exodus into the country, while across the Red Sea, another potential haven - Yemen - is in the throws of a political crisis.

The WFP is to hold consultations with donors in the next few weeks to explain the severity of the situation.

But currently there is little Somalis can do but wait and hope, as they face the prospect of war and drought as aid stockpiles are depleted.

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