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Somalia needs 326 mln dollars to ward off famine, UN says

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 5 (Reuters) Somalia needs an injection of 326 million dollars to prevent a famine that threatens the country's fledgling government, a UN official said.

The drought gripping northeast Africa has been particularly devastating in Somalia, where a new government controls only a small part of the country. About half the country's livestock has died, according to Christian Balslev-Olesen, acting UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia.

He told a news conference yesterday that more than 2 million people out of an estimated population of 9 million were already on food aid and more than 10,000 deaths from starvation were expected each month if help did not arrive.

Warlords have dominated the country since the ousting of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. In February, the country's new government returned to Somali soil from Kenya.

''If we cannot deliver on the humanitarian situation, it's going to backfire on the political process,'' Balslev-Olesen said.

''Somalia is always faced with a humanitarian situation'' but the drought had produced ''the most difficult, the most severe emergency in a decade,'' Balslev-Olesen told a news conference.

The United Nations will launch a formal appeal for aid on Friday for several African nations, all of whom are suffering from the drought. Somalia's share is 326 million dollars.

Balslev-Olesen said some 30,000 people were on the move in search of water, the few schools still open were closing in the central and southern part of the country and there was an outbreak of polio near the Kenyan border.

Despite piracy, abductions and roadblocks, he said the United Nations could get most aid through and had offices throughout the country. One way was for warlords to ride shotgun and not receive their money until the food and other goods arrived to communities.

He said the international community had paid no attention to Somalia since US troops and then UN peacekeepers in 1995 withdrew and left a failed state behind.

''There is a feeling that Somalia has been totally left outside the map,'' he said. ''There is a feeling that the international community has not come forward to assist in the way and in the size which is necessary.'' Reuters SHR AD VP0255

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