The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Monday that drought in Somalia has escalated and the country is “staring at a potential catastrophe”.

In a statement, the office said that more than 4 million Somalis are estimated to be affected by the current drought in the Horn of African country.

The figure indicates that since December last year, 1.1 million more Somalis were being affected by the drought.

“Drought has escalated across Somalia, with 4.3 million people now estimated to be affected (up from 3.2 million a month ago), of whom 271,000 have abandoned their homes in search of water, food and pasture,” said the statement.

Severe water shortages and inadequate access to sanitation and hygiene facilities have heightened the risk of disease outbreaks, it warned.

Thousands of Somali children have dropped out of school as parents can no longer afford to pay fees due to the devastating drought in the country.

Food insecurity has also increased as malnutrition is high in drought-affected areas.

“With the next rainy season not expected until April 2022, Somalia is staring at a potential catastrophe,” said the UN office.

Local communities, authorities and humanitarian partners are scaling up assistance and intensifying resource mobilization, guided by the Drought Response Plan.

Somalia Humanitarian Fund is launching an early allocation of $25 million to provide immediate support to affected communities in hotspot locations.

Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble declared the situation as “national humanitarian emergency” late last year.

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