Somali displaced people wait to receive iftar charity food on the first day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Mogadishu
Somali displaced people wait to receive iftar charity food on the first day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Mogadishu, Somalia May 17, 2018.

Pope Francis said on Sunday that the war in Ukraine had distracted attention from the problem of world hunger and called for urgent food aid to stave off looming famine in Somalia.

"The people of this region, who already live in very precarious conditions, are now in mortal danger because of drought," he said at his weekly address in St. Peter's Square, referring to the Horn of Africa.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said this month that it could officially declare famine in eight regions of Somalia next month if livestock continue to die, key commodity prices rise further and humanitarian assistance fails to reach the most vulnerable.

Francis told pilgrims and tourists in the square that he wanted to draw attention "to the grave humanitarian crisis that has hit Somalia and some areas of bordering countries".

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said last week that about a million people have been internally displaced in Somalia since January.

U.N. agencies had other organisations have appealed for more funding to help stave off famine in Somalia, which is one of the countries most susceptible to climate vulnerability.

"I hope that international solidarity can respond efficiently to this emergency," Francis said.

"Unfortunately the war (in Ukraine) has distracted attention and resources but these are the aims that call for the utmost commitment - the fight against hunger, health care, education," he said.

Pope Francis holds weekly general audience at the Vatican
Pope Francis holds the weekly general audience at the Vatican, August 10, 2022. Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS