Worst drought of Africa in 60 years
An internally displaced Somalia woman sits at a camp 2 km (1 mile) west of Wajid town which houses over 730 families December 3,2005. Aid agencies provide food, medicine, shelter and water to thousands who remain displaced by numerous clashes between different Somali militia factions. The local needs grew in 2004, owing to a worsening drought. REUTERS

The famine in Somalia has spread to a sixth region and now directly effects four million people, about 750,000 of whom face the risk of death.

On Monday, the United Nations added Somalia's Bay state in the south to the list of famine-areas, joining the capital of Mogadishu, the Afgoye Corridor outside of the capital, Southern Bakool and the Middle and Lower Shabelle regions.

A regional famine is determined when at least 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope; acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons, according to the U.N.

Spurred by a massive drought in the Horn of Africa, the famine in Somalia has already left tens of thousands of people dead. Making matters worse, Somalia's ineffective government has been unable to counter the crisis on its own, and is desperately relying on the humanitarian efforts of foreign powers.

Somalia has been rife with political instability since dictator Said Barre was overthrown in 1991. In the past 20 years, there have been 14 attempts to create a working central government, but so far all have failed. The country is currently under the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government, which was established in 2004, but President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is still unable to control large regions of the country which are under the rule of local tribes or the militant group al-Shabaab.

The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was scheduled to end in August, but was extended for one year in June. On Tuesday, Somali politicians signed papers to establish a new political system by next year. This would include elections, a new constitution, improved security and parliamentary reforms.

If the famine proves to be as long-lasting as predicted, would a new government be able to assuage the crisis? If the new system could create political stability, then it would likely help.

Kenya is facing a similar drought, but government regulation has assured that the country will not slip into famine. Thanks to government mandates and regulations concerning the import and export of food, Kenya has managed to hold off a deeper catastrophe.

Additionally, the Somali government has been unable to create and economic or social unity, thereby dooming already starving citizens.

The collapse of the state... led to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today, translating into unacceptable suffering of innocent civilians who see their basic human rights violated every day, the United Nations Refugee Agency said in a statement.

But, the current government is making positive steps. With help from Ugandan peacekeepers, the TFG successfully expelled al-Shabaab from Mogadishu last month. Al-Shabaab notoriously high-jacked humanitarian packages sent by Western governments to the Somali people, and the United States has refused to send any aid to regions where al-Shabaab operates, which are sadly the same most damaged by the famine.

Moreover, on Monday the leaders of Somalia's Galmudug and Puntland states agreed to end a violent rivalry for the sake of a greater nation. Tribal clashed have plagued the area, the most recent killing at least 27 people in Puntland last week.

The Somali people are expecting us to achieve full security so that they can have a good life, said President Ahmed. We will sustain and honour their dignity, and we will lead them to prosperity.

A total of 12.4 million people in Somalia alone require immediate assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the number of people needing lifesaving humanitarian assistance could reach 15 million before the situation begins to turn around. Additionally, nearly 400,000 children are malnourished.

The current famine is the worst humanitarian disaster in Africa in two decades. The last time there was such a large-scale famine was in 1991-1992; it also occurred in Somalia.