UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations Wednesday declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia owing to the worst drought in decades, and appealed for urgent resources to assist millions of people in desperate need of help. Every day of delay in assistance is literally a matter of life or death for children and their families in the famine-affected areas, said Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia. Famine is declared when acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30 per cent, more than two people per every 10,000 die per day, and people are not able to access food and other basic necessities, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Bowden warned that malnutrition rates in Somalia are currently the highest in the world, with peaks of 50 per cent in certain areas of the countrys south. In the two regions of southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle in southern Somalia, acute malnutrition rates are above 30 per cent, with deaths among children under the age of five exceeding six per 10,000 per day in some areas. In the last few months, tens of thousands of Somalis have died as a result of causes related to malnutrition, the majority of them children. Consecutive droughts have affected the country in the last few years while the ongoing conflict has made it extremely difficult for agencies to operate and access communities in the south. Nearly half of the Somali population 3.7 million people are now estimated to be in crisis, with an estimated 2.8 million of them in the south. Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that humanitarian agencies need urgent funding to save lives, adding that roughly $300 million is needed in the next two months to provide an adequate response to famine-affected areas. We need donor support to address current needs and prevent a further deterioration of the crisis, he said, after addressing the Security Council on the impact of climate change on international peace and security. If funding is not made available for humanitarian interventions now, the famine is likely to continue and spread. Bowden said that, without immediate action, the famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks. We still do not have all the resources for food, clean water, shelter and health services to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalis in desperate need, he added. While UN humanitarian agencies have welcomed the recent statement by the insurgent group Al-Shabaab requesting international assistance in southern Somalia, the inability of food agencies to work in the region since early 2010 has prevented the UN from reaching the very hungry especially children and has contributed to the current crisis.