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Two Somali children suffering from malnutrition lie at a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP) near Mogadishu airport - AFP.
The United Nations said Wednesday that famine has hit two parts of rebel-held Somalia, due to a severe drought affecting more than 10 million people in the Horn of Africa.
"The United Nations declared today that famine exists in two regions of southern Somalia: southern Bakool, and Lower Shabelle," a statement by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for Somalia said.
Both are areas controlled by Al-Qaeda inspired Shebab insurgents.
"Across the country nearly half of the Somali population -- 3.7 million people -- are now in crisis, of whom an estimated 2.8 million people are in the south," the statement read.
"Consecutive droughts have affected the country in the last few years, while the ongoing conflict has made it extremely difficult for agencies to operate and access communities in the south of the country," it added.
Officials warned that unless urgent action were taken the areas afflicted by famine would grow.
"If we don't act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks," Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told reporters.
Countries affected across the region include parts of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti, while the United States on Tuesday also urged secretive Eritrea to reveal how severely it has been hit by the drought.
Famine implies that at least 20 percent of households face extreme food shortages with limited ability to cope, acute malnutrition in over 30 percent of people, and two deaths per 10,000 people every day, according to the definition released by the UN.
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