Tens of thousands of famine-stricken Somali refugees were left cold and drenched after torrential rains pounded their makeshift structures in the capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday, leading to renewed appeals for aid.
Rain is needed to alleviate the drought but it wrecked many of the makeshift homes made of sticks and scraps of cloth.
Suffering refugees said more aid was vital but agencies have limited reach in Somalia where Islamist militants, including the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, are waging an insurgency against the country’s weak UN-backed government.
“We are living in plight, we left our homes, lost our animals and farms so we ask everyone to help us to survive,” Abdi Muse Abshir said.
Lul Hussein, a mother of five, said her family had a sleepless night after their makeshift home crumbled.
“We are starved and we don’t have enough help,” she said. “Who’s helping us? No one! So we are already between death and bad life.”
Al-Shabab, the most dangerous group among the militants al-Shabab, has barred major relief organisations from operating in the territories it controls.
The UN said tens of thousands of people have died in Somalia in areas held by the Islamist rebels because food aid could not reach them.
The African Union peacekeeping force fears al-Shabab may try to attack the Mogadishu camps that house tens of thousands of famine refugees, disrupting even further the distribution of food aid. The AU force is attempting to push the militants’ front line away from the camps.
The drought and the famine have affected more than 11.8 million people in the Horn of Africa and created a triangle of hunger where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet.
The World Food Programme says it cannot reach 2.2 million Somalis who live in territory controlled by al-Shabab in south-central Somalia.