Fleeing drought, hunger, thousands trek to Somalia's capital

Boolo Aadan, 63, who fled drought-stricken areas, holds her 9 month old grandchild outside the tent where they now live at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. Thousands of desperate families have fled a severe drought across large parts of Somalia, seeking food and water in camps for displaced people outside the capital. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - Sitting under the hot sun, hungry women and children await food aid in a camp on the outskirts of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. They have walked for days, fleeing the drought now ravaging a large part of rural Somalia.

Their growing ranks are expected to swell further in the coming months as the Horn of Africa region faces its worst drought conditions in a decade.

This week the United Nations World Food Program warned that 13 million people in the region, including parts of Ethiopia and Kenya, face severe hunger in the first quarter of 2022. Immediate assistance is needed to avoid a major humanitarian crisis, the agency warned. The Horn of Africa has long been vulnerable to drought and hunger conditions often exacerbated by armed violence.

Somalia's government in November declared a state of humanitarian emergency due to the drought, with the worst affected parts including the south-central areas of Lower Jubba, Geddo and Lower Shabelle regions.