Over the past year, Mogadishu, the capital, and other key cities have been hit by almost daily violence. Hundreds of civilians have died and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.

 

The aid agency statement said: "The crisis engulfing Somalia has deteriorated dramatically while access to people in need continues to decrease; 360,000 people have been newly displaced and an additional half a million people are reliant on humanitarian assistance."

 

The statement is based on a report released last October.

 

"There are now more than one million internally displaced people in Somalia. Intense conflict in Mogadishu continues to force an average of 20,000 people from their homes each month."

 

Struggle for survival

 

Last week, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, presented the Security Council with a report proposing the deployment of 27,000 peacekeepers to replace the stretched African Union force.

 

The Security Council has reviewed options for increased UN involvement in Somalia, but certain members have ruled out an early deployment of a full peacekeeping force.

 

The aid agencies said families left in the capital are among "the poorest of the poor who did not have the means to flee".

 

"Record high food prices, hyper-inflation and drought in large parts of the country is leaving communities struggling to survive," they said.