The International Committee of the Red Cross says the humanitarian situation in Somalia continues to deteriorate and is among the worst in the world.  The Red Cross says it is stepping up its emergency relief operation for hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Lisa Schlein reports from ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

The people of Somalia are being crushed by war and drought.  The International Committee of the Red Cross is one of the few aid agencies still working in this increasingly dangerous environment.

Its delegates report a growing number of towns and cities in the center and south of the country are involved in armed clashes.  And, fighting in the capital Mogadishu remains particularly intense.

Red Cross Spokesman Marcel Izard says many civilians have been killed or wounded by crossfire.  He says hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes. 

He says people also are suffering from the effects of chronic drought.  And many, he says are unable to buy food and other essentials because living costs have soared. 

"Our teams recently told us that families, the displaced families in Somalia, they are surviving on less than one meal per day," said Izard. "So, this gives you maybe a figure on how these people have to survive.  And, they are spending their meager income basically on drinking water.  That is the reason the ICRC has been helping during four months.  We have been handing out food rations to over half a million Somalis.  Most of them are the displaced people."

Earlier in the year, Somalia experienced a below-average minor rainy season.  In response to the drought, the Red Cross mounted a large-scale operation.  It trucked in nearly 200 liters of water to almost half a million pastoralists and their livestock.  The operation lasted more than three months.

Izard says Somalia is now, once again, facing acute water shortages because of the failure of the major mid-year rains.

"We have been also launching again a huge water and distribution program that has just started now and that will end in mid-October where we will deliver 70 million liters of drinking water to 500 different places within the country," he said.

Izard says the ICRC has renovated and repaired strategic water supply systems, improved groundwater sources, such as wells and boreholes and surface water storage facilities.  This, he says has given 180,000 people sure access to water.

He says similar projects under way are expected to benefit a further 140,000 people by the end of the year.