WFP airlifts supplements to famine-hit Somalia

By the Associated Press | July 27, 2011 | 9:59 AM EDT

Ahmed Hersi, 4, from southern Somalia is treated for malnourishment at Banadir hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Wednesday, July 27, 2011. More than 11 million people are estimated to need help in East Africa's worst drought in 60 years, in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and South Sudan. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsame)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A U.N. official says a plane carrying 10 tons of nutritional supplements meant to treat malnourished children in famine-hit Somalia has taken off from neighboring Kenya.

World Food program spokeswoman Challiss McDonough said Wednesday this is first of several planned airlifts in coming weeks. She says today's shipment of peanut butter-based nutritional paste will treat 3,500 malnourished children for one month.

McDonough says WFP decided to send in the airlift because of an urgent need to treat the growing number of internally displaced children suffering from malnutrition before their condition deteriorates.

She says shipping the supplements would take months. She says about 18,000 children are suffering from malnutrition and the number is expected to grow to 25,000.