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Many Somali children are arriving at refugee camps so weak that they are dying within 24 hours despite emergency care and feeding, she said.

In the hospital in Wajir, an ethnically Somali area in northeast Kenya, Dr. Mohamed Hassan said that most children in the ward are suffering from severe malnutrition.

“You will find severely wasted children,” he said.

The European Commission said Wednesday it is sending $8 million in emergency funding to Dadaab to help deal with the crisis. The EC has contributed nearly $100 million to the drought crisis this year.

A spokesman for Somalia’s most dangerous militant group, al-Shabab, said Tuesday that the group is willing to allow aid agencies to negotiate their return.

Al-Shabab in 2009 began to ban aid agencies, fearing the groups could host spies or promote an un-Islamic way of life. Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage said non-Muslims who want to help must contact al-Shabab’s drought committee for permission.

Nicholas Wasunna, an adviser to the aid group World Vision, said the drought is hitting children and elderly hard in northeast Kenya.

Mr. Wasunna, echoing other aid agencies, said governments needed to have acted quicker to prevent the crisis.

“We need to make disaster risk reduction a political priority and invest accordingly because these scenes we should never see again. The reality is drought will continue to be with us but we need to do much more, much sooner,” he said.

Save the Children said more than a quarter of children in the worst-hit parts of Kenya are now dangerously malnourished, while malnutrition rates in Somalia have reached 30 percent in some areas.

Ms. Fleming of UNHCR said her agency estimates that a quarter of Somalia’s 7.5 million people are now either internally displaced or living outside the country as refugees.

Somalis aren’t only fleeing to Kenya and Ethiopia, but also to the capital city of Mogadishu, where refugees begging for food or money are commonplace.

Abdi Jimale arrived in Mogadishu two months ago but said he found no help.

“We were thinking the aid agencies would be helping us in Mogadishu, but we found nothing,” he said. “I want to go to Kenya when I can get assistance. The situation we are living in is totally unbearable.”

Maryan Qasam, a 41-year-old mother of seven, said her 35 cows died after the pastures dried out. She makes about 50 cents a day from the generosity of strangers.

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