World leaders urged to cancel Somalia's debt

World leaders gathering in London have been urged to cancel drought-hit Somalia's debt as millions of people in the African country face starvation.

Prime Minister Theresa May is hosting a high-level conference to consider the humanitarian crisis and security situation in Somalia.

Charities urged the political leaders to boost funding and take urgent action to avoid a famine.

Save the Children CEO Kevin Watkins said: "Somalia continues to drift towards an avoidable famine.

"Without early and decisive action to support and tackle the desperate nutrition, health and water needs of vulnerable communities, more children will become severely malnourished - and lives will be lost."

He added: "Restoring Somalia's relations with the World Bank, cancelling the country's debt, and providing immediate financial support from the World Bank's international development association facility is critical."

The Lancaster House summit will be addressed by Mrs May, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Development Secretary Priti Patel.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo will also speak at the conference.

The meeting will focus on the agreement of a security pact and the adoption of a "new partnership for Somalia" to deliver the support and reforms the country needs over the next four years.

The UK Government will reaffirm its commitment to preventing a famine, and call on the international community to urgently step up their support before it is too late.

Disasters Emergency Committee CEO Saleh Saeed said: "We hope that this conference will result in much-needed progress for Somalia helping build resilience - at national, local and individual level - so that the country can withstand future humanitarian emergencies. "

He added: "More funding is urgently needed to address the crisis and we hope that the conference will result in increased humanitarian finance."

The DEC's East Africa crisis appeal launched in March raised £55 million in its first month, including £10 million of taxpayers' money.

ActionAid's head of humanitarian response Mike Noyes said: "Drought has pushed millions of Somalis to the brink of starvation."

He added: "Despite UK generosity, the UN emergency appeal for Somalia remains chronically underfunded.

"The London Somalia conference is a huge opportunity to galvanise international humanitarian support."