DOLO, Somalia — Lush patches of green dot this once-barren land, allowing goats and camels to graze. A nearby field is full of large, purple onions, thanks to a U.N.-funded project.
Four months after the United Nations declared famine in much of Somalia, some regions are beginning a slow recovery from a disaster that has killed tens of thousands of people.
But many Somalis — women, mostly — living in a stick-hut camp in this border town say they won't return home because they're fear hard-line Islamist militants stalking the country, and being unable to feed themselves and their children.
The United Nations last week reduced the number of famine zones in Somalia from six to three and said the number of people at risk of starvation has dropped from 750,000 to 250,000.
Since the July 20 famine declaration, the U.N. has received $800 million in aid for Somalia, and the United States has provided $650 million to drought-stricken Horn of Africa nations, including Somalia. Still, the fate of 13 million people affected by East Africa's worst drought in decades remains in doubt. Officials say aid deliveries must continue or recovering regions will plunge back into famine.
"We are just at the beginning of a phase of a potential recovery if everything goes well," said Luca Alinovi, the head of the Somalia office of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.
"We are very far away from the end of the famine," he said, saying it will likely be a year before anyone is sure the danger has passed.
Somalia's famine has been made more severe by al-Shabab militants who control the country's south and have impeded the work of aid agencies. U.N. officials say tens of thousands of people have died, though Mark Bowden, the United Nations' top humanitarian official for Somalia, said he doesn't believe there will ever be a precise toll.