* Total of $7.9 billion sought as crises spread
* Less than half of original target received so far
GENEVA, July 20 (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Wednesday it needs $7.9 billion this year, $500 million more than it had originally sought, to fund relief operations in the face of spreading humanitarian crises in Africa and Asia.
The appeal was launched at a donor meeting in Geneva by U.N. emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos as in Nairobi the world body declared a state of famine in parts of southern Somalia which could quickly spread .
“We expect humanitarian needs in the second half of 2012 and in 2012 to continue at least at current levels as the effects of high commodity prices, adverse weather conditions, disasters and conflicts persist,” she said.
The $7.4 billion the U.N. had sought last November for 2011 had already included provision for an expected drought across the Horn of Africa, Amos told a news conference, but the scale of the disaster there was greater than foreseen.
Military conflicts in Libya and Ivory Coast, causing the displacement of tens of thousands of people, heightened political strife in Yemen, floods in the Philippines and food shortages in North Korea had all worsened the situation.
Further funds were also needed to cope with what Amos called “the fragile situation” in newly independent South Sudan.
The original appeal had included funding for continued relief in Haiti following the earthquake of January 2010 and ongoing operations in and around Afghanistan and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories
But so far only $3.4 billion had been received towards the initial appeal total of $7.4 billion, a shortfall of 55 per cent, Amos said.
“Funding this year is less than in recent years. I hope that donors will close the funding gaps. It will make a big difference to the millions of people we need to help,” she told the donor meeting.
The funds are sought under what the U.N. calls its consolidated appeal process which brings its own agencies involved in humanitarian operations together with non- governmental and voluntary aid organisations.
Under the process, in which some 400 different aid bodies are involved this year, participants plan, coordinate and implement an agreed response to natural disasters and complex emergencies like wars and civil conflicts. (Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)