The United Nations said on Friday that Somalia's famine is over, but the world body's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) warned that continued assistance is needed to stop the region from slipping back.

On a five-point scale

The world body moved the crisis from the top step of a five-point scale based on the death rate to the fourth step, formally reducing it from a “famine” to a “humanitarian emergency.” However, the U.N. said that 2.3 million people remain in a food crisis situation in Somalia and still need assistance. That represents 31 per cent of the country's population. Across the Horn of Africa region the total is 9.5 million who need help.

The international body declared famine in Somalia last July after successive failed rains. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled to refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and the Somali capital Mogadishu in search of food. The famine was exacerbated by the Somali militant group al-Shabab, which has let few aid agencies into the area it controls in south-central Mogadishu.

Jose Graziano da Silva, the director general of the FAO, warned that without assistance in the region over the next three months “those people will not survive. The Horn of Africa will be for FAO the most important region and we'll be doing our best here to improve food security,” he said. “We do believe it is possible to have a Horn of Africa free of hunger.”

Mark Bowden, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said that increase in assistance last year helped. But he said the international community must keep helping.

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