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Somalis on ‘brink of death’ in crowded camps amid worsening drought

This file photo shows the Bulo Isak camp for the internally displaced people in Somalia.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia are arriving at overcrowded displacement camps in search of food and water as the African country experiences its worst drought in decades.

People walk long distances to  the camps, already home to those escaping violence in the country, in search of food and water, the Guardian reported Friday.

Most of the 317,000 people displaced since January left their homes because of drought. This brings a growing pressure on existing camps, said aid agency Islamic Relief during a visit to the Bardhere camp in Gedo.

 The staff of the charity said they found people living in basic shelters with little food and water, with many on “the brink of death.” They also reported several deaths, including that of a baby, during their visit.

“The camps are the only place they know there is help, so if all of your food is gone and livestock is dead you go there,” said Aliow Mohamed, disaster response manager at Islamic Relief.

"Many are living in shelters just made of plastic sheeting and poles. These camps have nothing. As they grow more crowded, there are more issues with hygiene, water supply and protection,” he added.

The country has more than 2,400 such settlements, which already lack resources.

The United Nations warned earlier this week that Somalia was “staring at a potential catastrophe” this year. More than a quarter of Somalia’s population urgently needs food aid, it said.

The drought has pushed almost half of Somali children under five — about 1.4 million — into acute malnutrition, a life-threatening illness, this year, according to the world body, which called for urgent action.

“Malnutrition has reached crisis levels,” said Victor Chinyama, head of communications for the UN children’s agency UNICEF’s Somalia operations, on Tuesday.

Somalia’s national emergency committee, which oversees the response to the crisis, said the government was calling for international support.

Almost a fifth of the country's population is internally displaced. 

The Horn of Africa is experiencing its driest conditions since 1981, with 13 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya facing severe hunger, according to the World Food Program.

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