It is the stick-thin wrists that first mark out severely malnourished children like Hamdi Ahmed in drought-stricken Somalia.

At a clinic where dozens of desperately-ill babies are being brought in for emergency ­treatment, the skeletal girl lies listlessly in her mum Ayaan’s arms. Six months old but weighing less than 8lb – the average for a newborn in Britain – she shifts her head slowly towards me.

Only then do I see it is covered in white blotches, her mouth is red with a sore rash, and her eyes are painfully sealed over.

Hamdi is so hungry her body’s defence system has failed, leaving her prone to infection. She looks ready to die.

After three years without rain, the longest dry spell since records began here in 1950, Somalia is on the cusp of a devastating famine.


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