The international aid organization Oxfam says more action should have been taken earlier to help prevent the famine in Somalia.

?As of the end of 2010, it was widely predicted that there would be a big crisis, but not [on] the scale that it has become,? said Alun McDonald, Oxfam International?s regional media and communications officer for East Africa.?

?We knew?there was going to be a big crisis, and there was a real opportunity then for the government to help communities prepare for the tough months ahead,? said McDonald.

It was noted then that the animals were weak and would lose their value if they did not get any food, he said. If food had been provided, they would be in better shape now. That and many other measures would have helped people get through the coming months of the new year.

A woman holds her malnourished child on arrival at
A woman holds her malnourished child on arrival at Banadir hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, July 7, 2011

?But a lot of that type of intervention did not happen, said McDonald.

The need for aid is urgent.

?What needs to happen right now is quite simply money.  We are at the stage now where tens of thousands of people have already died.  If we don?t want to see massive, massive death, then we need money now,? said McDonald.

Oxfam says the aid effort is critically underfunded, with a gap of $700-800 million. It says the international community is responding slowly to the crisis.