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LONDON: Somalia faces a great risk of famine, with children already starving “before our eyes”, a UN food aid organization official has warned.

In a letter to G7 leaders, Michael Dunford, the UN World Food Program regional director for East Africa, said only “massive” funding and humanitarian relief efforts would prevent disaster in the country.

He said the G7 governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US urgently needed to donate to avoid devastation in the Muslim nation.

Dunford said: “We need money, and we need it right now. Will we be able to avoid (the famine in Somalia)? Unless … there isn’t a massive scaling-up from now on, it won’t be possible, of course clearly.

“At this point, the only way out is if there is massive investment in humanitarian relief, and all stakeholders, all partners, come together to try to stop it.”

The Horn of Africa is particularly vulnerable to famine in its current state due to four consecutive insufficient rainy seasons and a rise in prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The WFP said 89 million people in East Africa are now considered “highly food insecure”, a 90 percent increase from the previous year.

“Unfortunately, I don’t see (rate) slowing down. If anything, it looks to be accelerating,” Dunford said.

The WFP’s appeal comes after G7 leaders last year pledged to provide $7 billion to support countries fighting famine, but program experts claim insufficient funding was devoted to the Horn of Africa.

The crisis in Somalia, which is worse than any other conflict experienced by countries in the region, is at the forefront of WFP’s funding demands. The 2011 famine in Somalia killed more than 250,000 people, mostly children, and analysts fear the situation could be even more lethal this year.

Somalians are facing famine by the end of the year, with a UN International Children’s Emergency Fund worker telling Sky News that, “the data are showing that the level of malnutrition among children is higher than in the 2011 famine.”

UNICEF’s Jamal Abdi Sarman said: “This potentially signals an imminent famine in the near future. If there is no expected and prompt intervention, we will inevitably see mass deaths of children in the coming months.” “

Save the Children’s deputy humanitarian director Claire Sanford told the Guardian that she met mothers in Somalia who were powerless to prevent their children from dying, with many families buried many children.

She said: “I can honestly say that in my response to the humanitarian crisis of 23 years, this is the worst I have ever seen, especially in terms of the level of impact on children. The starvation that I and my colleagues witnessed in Somalia , she has grown faster than we anticipated.

“What we have really failed as an international community is that we have let the situation go to the extent it is at the moment. In 2011, we vowed as a community that we would never let this happen again. And yet we have failed in that promise,” she said.