File Picture: Ian Landsberg
An estimated 1 million people have been forced to flee their homes this year by conflict and severe drought ravaging several parts of Somalia, a global charity said on Wednesday. 

The Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) regional director, Gabriella Waaijman, said the displaced Somalis are seeking food and water mainly due to severe drought. "We are alarmed at the massive scale of this crisis," Waaijman said in a statement issued in Mogadishu. 

"On average, a staggering 3,500 people per day have fled their homes this year searching for food and water to stay alive." Drought has been gripping the Horn of Africa nation for the third year in a row. 

"We are witnessing a mass exodus from rural villages not seen since the deadly 2011-2012 famine that killed 260,000 people," Waaijman said. 

 The charity said dry rural communities across Somalia have nearly turned into ghost towns, as crops failed, livestock died and families fled in droves after they ran out of all food reserves. 

Some 49,000 people fled their homes in September alone and most migrated to overcrowded camps in urban areas, where Somalis share their stories of survival. 

NRC is responding to the crisis with direct cash relief for drought-affected families, in addition to other programs. 

 Waaijman said while drought was the main cause of displacement in Somalia this year, other causes included conflict, insecurity and flooding. 

"We have to continue this urgent response to prevent another famine from occurring in Somalia. Donors have made significant contributions towards this emergency, but more funding is needed," Waaijman said.

"Predictions for the next rainy season are unfavorable. This would push more people over the edge, so continued support is needed," warned Waaijman.

The drought crisis has been worsening in 2017. Half the population, over 6.2 million people, now need humanitarian assistance. With families on the move in search of food, 388,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished. 

-Xinhua