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Help Underway for Northern Somalia Drought Victims

  • Wayne Lee

FILE - A malnourished five-year-old boy sits on his mother's lap at a hospital in Somalia, May 20, 2014.

FILE - A malnourished five-year-old boy sits on his mother's lap at a hospital in Somalia, May 20, 2014.

Two international relief groups are increasing efforts to help residents of drought-stricken northern Somalia.

UNICEF and the World Food Program say they are providing immediate life-saving humanitarian aid to Somalialand and Puntland, autonomous regions in northwestern and northeastern Somalia.

Drought conditions have prompted the two agencies to offer food, nutrition programs, health services and support, and access to safe water and improved sanitation.

UNICEF and the WFP estimate 385,000 residents need immediate assistance, while another 1.3 million may slide into a crisis if drought conditions persist and assistance is slow to arrive.

UNICEF representative for Somalia Steven Lauwerier said many residents are in dire need of immediate assistance.

"Our concerted efforts are needed now to save the lives of tens of thousands of children and their families,” he said. “Any delay from the international community will put their lives further at risk."

Four seasons of poor rain in northern Somalia have been exacerbated by El Nino, a cycle of warm and cold temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that is linked to global changes in temperatures and rainfall.

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