Somali MPs have gathered at the heavily guarded airport in the capital Mogadishu to elect the country's new president. The indirect vote has been hailed by the international community as a milestone for the country, which has been without a functioning government since civil war broke out in 1991.

While voting is underway, curfews and travel restrictions have been imposed throughout Mogadishu due to possible attacks by al-Shabaab terror group.

As fears of possible violence have once again gripped the volatile nation, the country is also bracing itself for a looming famine that is threatening millions of lives.

Two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall have resulted in severe water shortages, a drop in food production, livestock deaths and rising costs of food that is pushing the country towards the brink of a famine just six years after some 260,000 people starved to death in the East African nation.

Persisting insecurity and travel restrictions have resulted in the escalation of food prices and a drop in supplies, meaning that people do not have access to basic goods to cope with the ongoing crisis.

Lack of food is forcing people to relocate to other areas of the country or even to other countries, such as Kenya and Ethiopia also affected by the drought.

"Nomadism has always been an effective coping mechanism, but this is now limited by conflict, the widespread nature of the drought in the entire country and clan differences," Simon Nyabwengi, national director for global charity World Vision told IBTimes UK.

"Towns are beginning to see an increase in destitute people in search of food and employment. It is not exactly clear what numbers we are dealing with every day. Movements continue especially into towns such as Baidoa, Mogadishu, Garowe and even Hargeisa," he explained.

When does a famine occur?

World Vision is working in several areas of Somalia, including Bari region and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Among other things, the organisation is providing nutrition supplements to nearly 74,000 children across the country.

Water shortage and inadequate nutrition are also spreading diseases. Livestock deaths are reducing the income of the predominantly pastoralist population, while children no longer meet their nutritional requirements due to lack of milk.

"The humanitarian community is taking measures to respond as fast as possible and avoid a repeat of the famine situation in 2011," Nyabwengi concluded.

Drought in Somalia in numbers (World Vision data)

  • 6.2 million people (more than half of the country's population) are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance
  • An estimated 363,000 children under age of five are acutely malnourished. Of these, more than 71,000 are likely severely malnourished and face increased risk of morbidity and death
  • 3.3 million people require livelihood support
  • 2.9 million people are facing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity
  • 1.1 million people are internally displaced - Around 23,000 families are thought to have migrated into Bari – northeastern Somalia – in search of pasture and water. Some 30,000 families from Sool, Sanaag and Toghdeer are also thought to have moved into other parts of Somaliland, predominantly Burao city
  • $18.5 m (14.7m) needed to assist 530,000 people in need of urgent help