Aid Groups Struggle to Help Somalia Famine Victims

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Somalia is suffering from the world's worst famine in six decades, with a severe drought putting an estimated 11 million people at risk.

Thousands have already died and even more natives have been forced to flee their homeland.

"They're moving because they've lost all their [livestock] as a result of the drought," said U.N Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Bowden. "They've run through their reserves and they see no other hope but to move at this stage."

Somalia has been plagued by years of little rain and decades of conflict. Malnutrition rates in the country are among the highest in the world.

One mother of a malnourished child made a desperate plea for help.

"We are dying in the absence of immediate humanitarian assistance. Where is the U.N.? Where is the Muslim world?" she asked. "Please come to our aid. We are suffering a lot. So the world should take action to save our lives."

World Vision is one of the humanitarian groups reaching out to Somalis affected by the famine. To help, text "4africa" to 20222 to donate $10 to support the emergency relief efforts. You can also visit the World Vision website, or call 1-888-56-CHILD (1-888-562-4453).

The famine in Somalia is so severe that the United States is loosening rules meant to prevent emergency funds from falling into the hands of al Shabaab, Somalia's most militant group.

"The aid that's been announced that's going to refugee camps has no real downside. It's a good thing to do because this is a massive humanitarian crisis with 11 million people threatened," counter-terrorism expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross said.

"The concern policy makers have is that the aid organizations that are forced to pay taxes to Shabaab, or are forced to use convoy drivers who are giving kick-backs to Shabaab, is something that bolsters the organization," he explained.

CBN News spoke with Nathaniel Hurd, World Vision policy advisor for conflicts and disaster, about the situation in Somalia and how difficult it is to get aid into the country.  Click play for his comments.

The United Nations World Food Program says Somalia is the most dangerous country in the world to work in because of frequent kidnappings, killings, and attacks on aid convoys.

Fourteen relief workers have died in past few years. Two years ago, Muslim rebels prevented aid from reaching those in need.

"You have 5,000 Somalis a week leaving Shabaab-controlled territory and going into Ethiopia. You have 110,000 refugees from Somalia in Ethiopia right now. And you have over 300,000 Somali refugees in Kenya," Gartenstein-Ross said.

"One of al Shabaab's recruiting tools and tools to give them strength is say they're able to govern better than competitors, and the fact that the drought is driving so many people has given lie to that claim," he added.

The country hasn't seen anything like this drought since the early 1990s when hundreds of thousands of Somalis starved to death.

"What the United Nations is doing is trying to increase the level of aid that's going on in there," Bowden said. "At the moment we are providing some assistance, but it's not enough and it's clearly not enough."

This week, the U.N. formally declared a famine in five districts across Somalia.

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