Hunger and desperation spread in Somalia as militants set blockade of towns in need

Residents and officials say that severe hunger is spreading in southern Somalia where Islamic militants have encircled several towns in the control of African Union forces, preventing food deliveries. Deaths from malnutrition and hunger have been reported.

African Union forces fighting al-Shabab militants have moved into several towns across southern Somalia, pushing the militants out. But the consequence of that has been that the militants are blocking shipments of food from entering the town.

Valerie Amos, the top U.N. official on humanitarian issues, told the U.N. Security Council this week that al-Shabab's blockades are greatly increasing food prices.

Humanitarian officials say large areas of Somalia risk mass hunger later this year. In 2011, a famine hit Somalia, killing an estimated 260,000 people.