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  1. ITV Report

Drought-hit Somalia is on a knife-edge, says DEC boss as he sees impact of British donations

Video report by Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee

Earlier this year, ITV News ran a special series on the plight of millions of people living in East Africa, as part of the Disasters Emergency Committee's appeal to help the desperate situation for people living there.

In March, £55 million was raised, which includes £10 million pledged by the Department for International Development.

One of the countries worst affected, and now receiving that aid, is Somalia, where 3.1 million people are close to famine - and more than 380,000 children are acutely malnourished.

Somalia's crisis is caused by drought, but it's also been plagued by recent civil wars.

To see how your money is being spent, ITV News commissioned the DEC to take a camera to Somalia - so that you can see where the aid goes.

Its chief executive Saleh Saeed visited the Puntland region of Somalia, one of the worst hit areas.

This is the DEC's dispatch from the country:

Here, where people rely on their goats and camels for food and income, rain failure has meant that most of the livestock has perished and many families have lost everything.

Tens of thousands have left their homes searching for food and water and have settled in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDP).

Mr Saeed visited projects run by World Vision and Save the Children International, charities which are members of the DEC.

The projects in operation include monthly cash vouchers of £67 per month for families to buy food, the trucking of clean water to remote communities to prevent deadly diseases, and treatment of contaminated water.

Mobile health teams are on site at the camps. Credit: ITV News

In IDP settlements, DEC funds have paid for five mobile health teams who have already seen more than 16,000 patients and built 90 latrines.

Mr Saeed visited two remote IDP camps near the Ethiopian border to see the work of mobile health teams dealing with malnutrition, whooping cough, pneumonia and acute diarrhoea, which can kill a child in two hours.

He met 39-year-old mother Hamsa Shuaib, a mother of eight who relies on handouts from neighbours. The family has one meal a day of rice and water.

Hamsa's 18-month-old daughter Sada was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, weighing 7kg and with an upper arm circumference measurement of 11cm. She is one of an estimated 87,000 children in Somalia suffering from the condition.

  • Saleh Saeed speaks to Ranvir Singh after returning from Somalia

She was given a week’s supply of Plumpy'Nut, a nutritious vitamin-enriched peanut paste, and antibiotics. Hamsa will be assessed on a weekly basis.

Doctors told him how simple interventions like these have saved hundreds of lives in this camp alone - but he added that the situation is precarious.

If it rains in October, there will be some relief for these people who may be able to try to rebuild their lives. But if it doesn't rain, he added, they will be further devastated and reliant on humanitarian assistance, when famine could raise its head once more.

"The response from humanitarian organisations around the world, the UK government and with DEC funds, together, we have been able to avert famine so far in Somalia," Mr Saeed said.

Saleh Saeed visited Somalia. Credit: ITV News

"I have seen how children have been saved from malnutrition and hunger. Without this support, many children would lose their lives."

He said that in 2011, 250,000 people lost their lives because of famine in Somalia.

"So far, together we have been able to avoid that catastrophe - but these people's lives are on a knife-edge," he said.

"Without the humanitarian support the DEC has and other organisations have funded, we would fear for the worst."

"It’s crucial that the generous donors in the UK continue their support. Now is not the time to stop giving – please help the communities here survive the next few months."