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UN Says Nearly Half Somalia's People Need Aid

Country facing a peak in its 18 years of humanitarian crisis

The United Nations is renewing its multi-million dollar appeal for Somalia, which it says is facing a peak in its 18 years of humanitarian crisis. U.N. agencies pledge to continue assistance to millions of needy Somali people despite the attack in the Somali capital, Mogadishu on Thursday, which claimed 22 lives.

The United Nations says the latest bloody attack in Mogadishu underlines how urgent it is for the international community to provide humanitarian aid to Somalia.

The United Nations recently appealed for 690 million dollars for humanitarian operations in Somalia throughout 2010. The U.N. says there was a decline in contributions in 2009, so agencies will have little or no money to carry-over for projects in the New Year.

The U.N. says it is absolutely crucial for nations to provide early funding so people can get the help they so desperately need.

U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs, says the United Nations is committed to providing relief to the millions of people in the country, despite the increasing dangers. "Even though the humanitarian space has been reduced, we continue our aid and relief operation. That is why it is so important to get a commitment from the international community and get the adequate funding to the appeal for 2010," she said.

The United Nations reports more than three and one half million Somalis or nearly half of the population are in need of emergency assistance or livelihood support. It says one in five children under the age of five are acutely malnourished.

It says the humanitarian crisis has been worsened by the impact of the global recession. It notes remittances into Somalia have declined by 25 percent due to increased unemployment among Somalis living abroad.

The World Health Organization says this week's deadly attack in Mogadishu during a ceremony for medical students graduating from Banadir University is another blow to Somalia's health system. Among the victims were Somalia's Minister of Health and several medical students.

WHO Spokeswoman, Fadela Chaib, says the attack will hamper efforts by the international community to improve the health status of millions of Somalis. "It is a rare occurrence to have a new graduate from medical school in a country like Somalia. And, it is really very sad that an attack happened while a ceremony was taking place to celebrate the promotion of these health students," she said.

In 2007, according to the U.N. there were only 253 doctors in the country. This is considered one of the lowest number of physicians per capita in the world.