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Somali famine kills 29,000 children

The drought and famine in Somalia have killed more than 29,000 children under the age of five, according to US estimates, the first time such a precise death toll has been released related to the Horn of Africa crisis.

The United Nations has said that tens of thousands of people have died in the drought, the worst in Somalia in 60 years.

The UN said 640,000 Somali children are acutely malnourished, a statistic that suggests the death toll of small children will rise.

Nancy Lindborg, an official with the US government aid arm, told a congressional committee in Washington that the US estimates that more than 29,000 children under five have died in the last 90 days in southern Somalia.

That number is based on nutrition and mortality surveys verified by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The UN has declared three new regions in Somalia famine zones, bringing the total number to five. Out of a population of roughly 7.5 million, the UN says 3.2 million Somalis are in need of immediate lifesaving assistance.

Getting aid to Somalia has been made more difficult because al Qaida-linked militants control much of the country's most desperate areas.

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