Humanitarian organizations working in Somalia are appealing for $174 million to fund projects in various parts of the country next year.

Humanitarian organizations working in Somalia say they need the money to provide critically needed assistance to about one million Somalis in various parts of the country next year.

"With regard to Somalia, at the moment it is a country in continuing humanitarian crisis that is chronic. One in four children do not live to the age of five," said Maxwell Gaylard, U.N. Humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. "Malnutrition in parts of Somalia, if those rates existed in Kenya or anywhere else in the world, there would be a hue and cry. So the figures inside Somalia are not very good."

Mr. Gaylard says although the northern and the central areas, Puntland and Somaliland, are not badly off in terms to humanitarian assistance, the southern parts, notably the Gedo region, are a source of concern.

In November, the U.N. food security analysis unit in Somalia warned that poor rains and increasing insecurity in the southern region was hindering distribution of relief assistance.

The head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for Somalia, Philippe Lazzarini, says increased piracy of ships off the Somali coastline has made delivery of assistance to the region expensive and difficult.

"Due to these piracy activities, we had to put to an end to the transport of food by boat into Somalia, just because we could not find a company anymore which is willing to come along to Somali coast," he said. "There are alternative solutions, which is to transport the food by road from Kenya or from Djibouti. The problem is first you do not transport as much food as if it comes by boat and secondly the transportation cost is much higher."

Mr. Lazzarini says it costs 25 percent more to transport food by road to Somalia than by boat.

Pirates off the Somali coast have seized up to 32 boats, including some contracted by U.N. organizations, since March.

The aid agencies say they need the money to help ameliorate food shortages occasioned by crop failures caused by drought, effects of the tsumani, and fighting various diseases including HIV/AIDS in a country with a life expectancy less than 50 years.

Last year humanitarian agencies in Somalia appealed for $162 million to assist the war-torn country. Donors gave slightly more than half.

Somalia has been without a stable central government since 1991. A recently installed transitional government controls only a small area in the North.

The capital, Mogadishu, as well as other areas in the south remain in the hands of various armed groups and are not accessible to most aid agencies.