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SEOUL (Reuters) - The humanitarian crisis unraveling in southern Somalia, which the United Nations says is the worst famine in the area for 20 years, has been compounded by political instability that is nearly impossible to deal with, a top UN official said.
"This is a huge humanitarian crisis compounded by both manmade and natural disasters," Kanayo Nwanze, director the of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), told Reuters in an interview in Seoul on Friday.
"The case of Somalia is very sad ... to invest in a country where there is political instability is practically impossible."
Years of anarchic conflict in southern Somalia have exacerbated the emergency, preventing aid agencies from helping communities in the area. Nearly 135,000 Somalis have fled since January, mainly to neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia, with many small children dying during the journey.
"You've seen scenes of dying children, malnourished people walking kilometres south into Kenya and Uganda," he said, calling the international community to donate food aid, tents and blankets.
"Of course neighbouring countries are also concerned that this migration ... that they are also accepting potential problems."
The United Nations has called an emergency meeting for Monday in Rome to discuss mobilising aid for drought-stricken east Africa.
A wide swathe of east Africa, including Kenya and Ethiopia, has been hit by years of severe drought and the United Nations says 3.7 million people face starvation in southern Somalia.
"The most unfortunate part of this is it is not the first time it has happened ... droughts occurred in the 1980s, 90s and now in 2011. That is the sad part of the situation.
"When we do not prepare for natural disasters, they are bound to recur year after year, and then there is something wrong with the system that we have."
Monday's meeting in Rome was called at the request of France, current president of the Group of 20 leading economies. It will bring together the three main Rome-based aid agencies IFAD, the World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation.