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The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Friday it has stepped up its massive campaign to help prevent famine in Somalia.

FAO Representative in Somalia Richard Trenchard said the campaign has so far treated over 12 million animals in less than three months, thus protecting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families who rely on their livestock's meat and milk for survival.

"We have stepped up our response to reach families before that happens. Livelihoods are their best defence against famine," Trenchard said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

The UN food agency hopes to reach 22 million animals by mid-July, benefiting over three million people.

FAO is deploying 150 teams made up of both local Somali veterinary professionals across Somalia to treat goats and sheep as well as cattle and camels - up to 270,000 animals each day. The teams are made up of local Somali veterinary professionals.

According to FAO, livestock badly weakened by the lack of feed and water are highly susceptible to illnesses and parasites but are too weak to withstand vaccination.

Animals are treated with multivitamin boosters, medicines that kill off internal and external parasites, deworming, and other treatments to fight respiratory infections as part of an integrated response program to improve the conditions of livestock.

"When animals are weakened by drought, they stop producing milk or die which means people go hungry and families are pushed out of self-reliance," said Trenchard.

Around 3.2 million people in Somalia are on a hunger knife-edge. The majority live in rural areas and livestock such as goats, camels, sheep and cattle are their main source of food and income.

"What we have heard again and again from displaced people in camps is that when they lost their animals, everything collapsed. It is a steep, long climb for them to get back on their feet again," Trenchard said.

In addition to livestock treatments, the campaign includes giving rural families cash for food purchases, helping communities rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure, and providing farmers with vouchers for locally-sourced seeds along with tractor services that reduce their labour burden.

Source: NAM News Network