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Food Aid Reaches Famine-Stricken Somalia

Severely malnourished child from southern Somalia is being held in a makeshift shelter in a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, September 20, 2011.

The United Nations says food aid has been delivered to more than half of Somalia's people in need, but food insecurity will remain a major problem into next year.

The U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affair (OCHA) said Wednesday that more than 2.2 million Somalis have received food assistance, mostly in the famine-stricken south. However, the office said nearly two million others still urgently need aid.

It also said that despite a good rain forecast, "the number of people in crisis will remain high" into 2012.

International aid groups are attempting to scale up relief efforts across southern Somalia, parts of which have been declared famine zones after an extended drought. But the agencies are still being hampered by a lack of access and security threats.

OCHA spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs said relief agencies are still impeded by Islamist militants. Militant group al-Shabab has banned most foreign aid groups from operating in areas under its control.

To Listen to VOA's Joe De Capua interview with Byrs, click on the link below.

Food production is expected to improve in coming months because the rainy season, which is currently underway, is expected to be normal. However, the December harvest usually provides only 35 percent of the southern region's yearly food production.