NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thousands of people in northern Somalia may die as a result of the El Nino-related drought and a shortage of aid, and the poor rains that are forecast are likely to make things worse, the United Nations said on Thursday.
Some 1.7 million people, 40 percent of the population of northern Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland and Somaliland regions, need emergency aid, it said in a statement accompanying an appeal for $105 million in funding for Somalia up to September.
Only 11 percent of its earlier $885 million appeal for Somalia in 2016 has been funded, the United Nations said.
Severe drought has caused shortages of water and pasture, leading to livestock deaths and pushing many families into debt to survive, it said.
"Malnutrition-related deaths have been reported in Awdal region," it said, referring to Somalia's northwestern border with Ethiopia, which has also been hard hit by drought.
"Without access to emergency health services, water and sanitation, thousands of people could face death due to preventable causes."
Aid agencies are finding it difficult to raise funds for millions of drought-stricken people across eastern and southern Africa, hit by the strongest El Nino weather phenomenon in decades.
The drought may worsen in northern Somalia in the coming months as predictions for Somalia's main 'Gu' rainy season, from March to June, are poor, the United Nations said.
"We risk a rapid and deep deterioration of the situation," the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, said in the statement.
"The time to fund is now, to come back from the tipping point, avoid a greater crisis and avert loss of lives."
Fighting between the Islamist militant group al Shabaab and authorities in Puntland has forced people to flee their homes, humanitarians to suspend aid and has pushed up staple food prices, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) said.
(Reporting by Katy Migiro, editing by Tim Pearce.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)