The United Nations says Somalia is facing a renewed food crisis due to a lack of rain, rising food prices and continued insecurity.
The U.N.'s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) says 860,000 Somalis are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. It says the crisis is especially critical in rural areas of south-central Somalia and among internally displaced persons.
In a report released Friday, the agency said more than 200,000 Somali children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished.
FSNAU technical adviser Daniel Molla says many of those children are in northeastern Somalia, where people are dealing with a severe water shortage.
"We have seen rising childhood illnesses and also reduced access to milk for children in pastoral households, as livestock has to go to different places in search of pastures and water," he said.
Molla also says a government offensive to push al-Shabab militants from their remaining strongholds has inadvertently cut off some food supplies.
"Following the offensives, the insurgents who have been routed out of some of these areas are preventing the flow of trade, mostly food commodities, into the areas that have been liberated by the Somali government," he said. "That’s leading to a significant increase in prices and causing localized food shortages.”
Somalia was hit with prolonged drought in 2011 and 2012 that drove thousands of Somalis into neighboring countries in search of food and water.