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UN Aid Coordinator: Somalia Still in Crisis

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia says international aid has helped improve conditions in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, but says the region still faces a crisis situation.

Mark Bowden spoke to VOA in Washington Friday. He said distribution of seed in the Horn has gone well, so farmers can take advantage of recent rains.

He also said the U.N.'s current $1.5 billion appeal is aimed, in part, at helping Somalis replace livestock they lost during the drought.

But Bowden said that while many people have been helped by international aid, at least 250,000 still face famine conditions.

At the peak of the crisis last year, six parts of southern Somalia were declared famine zones. Millions of Somalis affected by years of drought and conflict still rely on foreign aid.

Bowden said he hoped a decision by the International Red Cross (ICRC) to suspend aid to 1.1 million Somalis will be "temporary." The Red Cross said this week it is stopping the work because aid was being blocked by local authorities with links to militant group al-Shabab.

Bowden was in Washington as part of a trip to North America and Europe to raise awareness about the humanitarian situation in Somalia. He said the crisis situation will likely last until at least August or September this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.