The UN World Food Program says it's unable to reach 2.2 million Somalis in desperate need of aid in militant-controlled areas of Somalia, meaning refugee camps in nearby Kenya are likely to continue seeing thousands of new refugees each week.


It's estimated millions of people need food aid in East Africa. (Mohamed Sheikh Nor/Associated Press)

Livestock have perished, and crops no longer grow after consecutive rains failed to fall in south-central Somalia.

On Saturday, a World Food Program (WFP) delegation visited a drought-affected area in Wajir, where the skeletons of dead cows and goats litter the land, and then the refugee camp in Dadaab.

The WFP's executive director Josette Sheeran said general food isn't enough for many of the malnourished children arriving there.

"So what we are seeing is thousands of children in need of special supplementary nutrition," Sheera said.

Influx of refugees

Kevin McCort, president and CEO of Care Canada, has been monitoring the situation at a refugee camp in Nairobi, Kenya.

"We have been seeing a steady influx of new arrivals, people who have walked for, in some cases they're telling us, over two weeks. It's an influx of refugees, 1,000 to 1,500 a day and the vast majority are young people. Almost 70 per cent are under 18 and 30 per cent are under four.

"So we have a population that's in very rough shape. Fifty per cent of the kids are malnourished. Some 30 per cent are severely malnourished."

French agriculture minister Bruno Le Maire, who joined the WFP delegation, called the famine "terrible" and said that Paris has agreed to donate an additional €5 million (6.8 million Cdn) to support the relief effort.

The drought has created a triangle of hunger where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet and the UN fears tens of thousands of people already have died in the famine.

WFP estimates more than 11.3 million people need aid across drought-hit regions in East Africa.

So many people are in need in Somalia because the militant group al-Shabab won't let aid in.

The group even denies a famine is taking place, disputing the UN's view that tens of thousands of people have already died.

The WFP can't operate without the militants' permission — and 14 of its employees have been killed in Somalia since 2008.

Al-Shabab signalled in early July that it would accept aid groups it had previously banned, but changed course on Thursday, saying groups such as WFP are not welcome.

The group's refusal to accept aid from Western and "Christian" aid groups means millions could starve — or be forced to begin the hike to help to Kenya, Ethiopia or Mogadishu, the Somali capital, which is also being overwhelmed with refugees.