The UN humanitarian agency has called for increased assistance to help reverse famine in Somalia amid reports that three areas in the lawless nation which were declared to be in a state of famine earlier this year have emerged from the dire food crisis.
Mark Bowden, the humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said in a statement issued on Friday night that increased humanitarian assistance has had a significant impact in the famine-affected parts of Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions, bringing these areas out of famine.
"Any improvements can only be sustained if the current level of humanitarian assistance continues. If humanitarian activities are interrupted or reduced in southern Somalia, many areas will fall back into famine," Bowden said.
The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) for Somalia said in a report released on Friday that the situation had improved in the affected areas in the southern regions of Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabelle and they were no longer famine zones.
"It is only thanks to the generosity of donors that we have been able to save tens of thousands of lives in the past three months. We need this support to continue or the price we pay will be the loss of thousands of lives," Bowden said.
However, according to the latest data compiled by FSNAU and Famine Early Warning System in southern Somalia, famine persists in parts of the Middle Shabelle region and in the areas hosting internally displaced persons in the capital Mogadishu and along the Afgooye corridor.
Malnutrition and mortality rates in many parts of southern Somalia continue to be the highest in the world.
A severe drought ravaged the Horn of Africa earlier this year causing food shortages that have claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people in Somalia and brought more than 3.2 million others on the brink of starvation.
A significant scale-up of relief efforts helped reach 2.2 million affected people, giving them access to food and water.
The statement said the humanitarian community will launch an appeal early next month for crucial funding for Somalia in 2012.
"This appeal is required to save lives and to reduce dependence on humanitarian aid by assisting Somali households to better cope with any future shocks," said Bowden.
He termed the situation in the Horn of Africa nation as still critical, adding that while malnutrition levels have reduced in some areas, they are still at famine levels in many parts of southern Somalia.
"Humanitarian assistance covers about half of the needs of the population and must be increased. Mortality rates are still amongst the highest in the world, mainly due to high malnutrition and diseases, such as malaria, cholera and measles, which are killing thousands, most of them children," said Bowden.
Somalia continues to face the largest humanitarian crisis in the world with over half of its population in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
Three million out of the 4 million people in crisis are in southern Somalia, where access to the population in need remains a major challenge.