A man pacifies a Transitional National Government soldier who tried to scare a mother just before a stampede erupted at the gates of a makeshift hospital in the Hawlwadag district of Mogadishu in Somalia on Monday. Image Credit: EPA

Dadaab, Kenya: Hundreds of thousands of Somali children could die in East Africa's famine unless more help arrives, a top US official warned on Monday in the starkest death toll prediction yet. To highlight the crisis, the wife of US Vice-President Joe Biden visited a refugee camp filled with hungry Somalis.

Jill Biden is the highest-profile US visitor to East Africa since the number of refugees coming across the Somali border dramatically increased in July.

Biden, who traveled to the camp in a C-130 military transport plane, said she wants to raise awareness and persuade donors to give more.

"One of the reasons to be here is just to ask Americans and people worldwide, the global community, the human family, if they could just reach a little deeper into their pockets and give money to help these poor people, these poor mothers and children," said Biden, who met with two Somali mothers and their eight children.

Later on Monday in Washington, President Barack Obama approved $105 million (Dh385 million) for humanitarian efforts in the Horn of Africa to combat worsening drought and famine


"There is hope if people start to pay attention to this," said Biden, who also met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

A drought has turned into famine because little aid can reach militant-controlled south-central Somalia, forcing tens of thousands of Somalis who have exhausted all the region's food to walk to camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

USAid administrator Raj Shah, who accompanied Biden, said hundreds of thousands of children could die from the famine. Shah said the world has a unique opportunity to save tens of thousands of children's lives by expanding humanitarian activities inside Somalia, though he noted that it would be a challenge for aid providers to get into Al Shabab-controlled south-central Somalia.

Given the camp's proximity to the uncontrolled and sometimes dangerous Somali border, a well-armed security team, some carrying sniper rifles, had secured the camp where she visited.

More than 29,000 children under the age of five have died in the last 90 days in southern Somalia alone, according to US estimates. The UN says 640,000 Somali children are acutely malnourished, suggesting the death toll of small children will rise.

How to donate in the UAE

  •  Dubai Islamic Bank: account 001-520-6066666-01
  • Dar Al Bir Society: At branches and stands in malls
  • Sharjah Charity Association:
  • SMS 6212 to donate Dh20, and 6215 to donate Dh100.
  • Red Crescent Authority: http://www.rcuae.ae/Donation/Pages/online.aspx