16/08/07 (B408) REUTERS – Plus de 600.000 personnes souffriraient de famine dans le Sud de la Somalie. 1.500.000 somaliens auraient besoin d’une assistance médicale et alimentaire. More than 600,000 hungry in Somali « bread basket » (En Anglais)

More than 600,000 people in war-ravaged southern Somalia are suffering from severe malnutrition in a part of country that used to be considered its "bread basket", according to an aid agency report.

The Food Security Analysis Unit, which groups several relief agencies, published an assessment of nutrition in Somalia’s Lower and Middle Shabelle region late on Monday.

"Nutrition … has deteriorated dramatically since March in the … region, (which is) generally the most resilient and the bread basket of the country," the report said.

This was partly owing to poor rains, and partly to disruptions in trade caused by a conflict that has killed hundreds since the Ethiopia-backed interim government ousted Islamists from Mogadishu in December, sparking an insurgency.

The report estimated inflation in the past three months to be roughly 40 to 60 percent.

"All of these shocks in a short period of time have resulted in a sudden-onset humanitarian emergency with high rates of acute and severe malnutrition affecting more than 600,000 people," it said.

The Horn of Africa country, which has had no functioning government since the fall of Siad Barre’s regime in 1991, has suffered an upsurge in clashes in past days.

Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since the insurgency started.

"The number of people in need of assistance has increased to 1.5 million. Of this … 295,000 require life-saving interventions," the report said.