The fate of tens of thousands of people living and dying from famine in the Somalia is literally in the hands and hearts of the internationally community.

The deadly famine in Somalia could spread if the international community doesn't provide the funds needed to respond to the hunger crisis that has already killed thousands, the United Nations humanitarian chief warned.

"Unless we see a massive increase in response, the famine will spread to five or six more regions," Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters at U.N. Headquarters. "Tens of thousand(s) of Somalis have already died and hundreds of thousands face starvation."

The U.N. humanitarian agencies declared famine in two areas of southern Somalia last month.

Amos said the drought in the Horn of Africa is the worst in 60 years, according to information on the U.N.'s Web site.

The drought had already affected large areas of Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti and has left an estimated 12.4 million people in need of humanitarian aid, according to the U.N.

Amos, who is also the U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator, said early warning systems had predicted the drought last year and humanitarian agencies had appealed for $1.6 billion dollars.

"As of mid-year, around half of that money had been raised, and as of last week donors had committed more than $1 billion," Amos said in a statement. "It is not enough. But neither was the crisis ignored as some have suggested. And even as we ask ourselves some important questions we can't allow those to distract from the task at hand. We need to deal with the here and now as well as with the longer term."

Amos said $1.4 billion is needed immediately so that relief organizations can ramp up response to the hunger crisis in the region.

She also urged traditional donors who have already contributed generously, to provide additional resources. Amos is also appealing to corporations, foundations and private individuals to provide some help as well.

Longer-term measures to make drought-prone areas of the Horn of Africa more resilient are already being implemented, according to Amos. She cited Ethiopia's social welfare scheme known as the Productive Safety Nets Program, and Kenya's employment plan that promotes natural resource management in arid and semi-arid areas.

Amos also asked that parties involved in Somalia's conflict uphold international humanitarian law so that aid workers can deliver help to those in need.

The U.N. will support a plan by the African Union to hold a funding conference for the Horn of African hunger crisis later this month, Amos said.