Africa

Somalia's new leader declares drought national disaster

  • In this photo taken Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, malnourished baby Ali Hassan, 9-months-old,  is held by his mother Fadumo Abdi Ibrahim, who fled the drought in southern Somalia, at a feeding center in a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. Thousands of desperate people are streaming into Somalia's capital seeking food as a result a prolonged drought, overwhelming local and international aid agencies, while the Somali government warns of a looming famine, compounded by the country's ongoing conflict against Islamic extremists. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

    In this photo taken Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, malnourished baby Ali Hassan, 9-months-old, is held by his mother Fadumo Abdi Ibrahim, who fled the drought in southern Somalia, at a feeding center in a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. Thousands of desperate people are streaming into Somalia's capital seeking food as a result a prolonged drought, overwhelming local and international aid agencies, while the Somali government warns of a looming famine, compounded by the country's ongoing conflict against Islamic extremists. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, displaced Somali girls who fled the drought in southern Somalia stand in a queue to receive food handouts at a feeding center in a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. Thousands of desperate people are streaming into Somalia's capital seeking food as a result a prolonged drought, overwhelming local and international aid agencies, while the Somali government warns of a looming famine, compounded by the country's ongoing conflict against Islamic extremists. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

    In this photo taken Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, displaced Somali girls who fled the drought in southern Somalia stand in a queue to receive food handouts at a feeding center in a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. Thousands of desperate people are streaming into Somalia's capital seeking food as a result a prolonged drought, overwhelming local and international aid agencies, while the Somali government warns of a looming famine, compounded by the country's ongoing conflict against Islamic extremists. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this photo taken Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, a displaced Somali girl who fled the drought in southern Somalia cooks on a wood fire in a camp in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia. Thousands of desperate people are streaming into Somalia's capital seeking food as a result a prolonged drought, overwhelming local and international aid agencies, while the Somali government warns of a looming famine, compounded by the country's ongoing conflict against Islamic extremists. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

    In this photo taken Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, a displaced Somali girl who fled the drought in southern Somalia cooks on a wood fire in a camp in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia. Thousands of desperate people are streaming into Somalia's capital seeking food as a result a prolonged drought, overwhelming local and international aid agencies, while the Somali government warns of a looming famine, compounded by the country's ongoing conflict against Islamic extremists. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)  (The Associated Press)

Somalia's new president has declared a national disaster for a drought that threatens millions of people and is creating fears of a full-blown famine.

Tuesday's statement from the office of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed says he has appealed for help from the international community and to Somalia's diaspora of 2 million.

Combating the drought is a priority for Mohamed, who was elected this month to lead this Horn of Africa nation coping with attacks by the Islamic extremist rebels al-Shabab.

The United Nations humanitarian office estimates that 5 million people in Somalia, or nearly half the country's population, need aid.

About 363,000 acutely malnourished children "need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished," says the U.S. Agency for International Development's Famine Early Warning Systems Network.