From the Guardian, writer Mark Tran records the statement from the UN humanitarian coordinator Mark Bowden.
He warned: "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.
"We still do not have all the resources for food, clean water, shelter and health services to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalis in desperate need."
He added that the lack of resources is alarming. "Every day of delay in assistance is literally a matter of life or death for children and their families in the famine-affected areas."
UN humanitarian agencies have welcomed the recent statement by al-Shabaab, Islamist insurgents affiliated to al-Qaida, requesting aid in southern Somalia, but said the inability of food agencies to work in the region since early 2010 has prevented the UN from reaching the very hungry – especially children – and has contributed to the current crisis. The Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions are understood to be controlled by al-Shabaab. The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, said it was seeking further security guarantees from the rebel group that it can deliver greater amounts of assistance in the area to prevent more hungry people from becoming refugees.
The drought in east Africa has left an estimated 11 million people at risk, but Somalia has been the worst hit country as it is already wracked by decades of conflict. The most affected areas of Somalia are in the south, particularly the region of Lower Shabelle, Middle and Lower Juba, Bay, Bakool, Benadir, Gedo and Hiraan, where the UN says an estimated 310,000 now suffer from acute malnutrition.
The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) said the crisis represented the most serious food insecurity situation in the world today, in terms of scale and severity.
"Current humanitarian response is inadequate to meet emergency needs," it said. "Assuming current levels of response, evidence suggests that famine across all regions of the south will occur in the coming one to two months. A massive multisectoral response is critical to prevent additional deaths and total livelihood/social collapse and, most immediately, interventions to improve food access and to address health/nutrition issues are needed."