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UN to Launch Somalia Drought Aid Appeal - 2003-10-31

The United Nations says it is about to launch an urgent appeal to help an estimated 90,000 Somali ranchers whose herds are being decimated by years of drought.

The head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs-Somalia, Calum McLean, says that years of drought have caused critical shortages of food in Somalia, especially in the Sool Plateau region in the north.

"The failure of this year's rainy season has just pushed people over the edge," he said.

He says around 50 percent of the region's cattle and up to 70 percent of the camels have died.

Traditionally, people have sold milk and livestock to purchase food in the market, but that is now difficult because of the high number of livestock deaths.

Mr. McLean says his office is putting together an urgent appeal for food and cash donations. He says the amounts needed are still being assessed.