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Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and United Nations Secretary General António Manuel chair the London Conference on Somalia at Lancaster House in London, 11 May, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay


LONDON (Reuters) - The United Nations is seeking a further $900 million this year for Somalia, where more than 6 million people need humanitarian assistance and 275,000 malnourished children are at risk of starvation, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday.

Mired in violent chaos since 1991, Somalia is also suffering the effects of a severe drought that has left parts of the country on the brink of famine.

"The drought is the most pressing priority," Guterres said in opening remarks to an international conference on Somalia in London.

"This morning we presented the revised humanitarian response plan seeking an additional $900 million to the end of the year," he said.

African Union troops, supporting Somalia's own weak and dysfunctional military, have clawed back most of the country's major towns and cities from Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group Al-Shabaab since the insurgents abandoned the capital Mogadishu in 2010. However, the militants continue to launch deadly attacks.

The London conference is co-hosted by the British government, the United Nations and Somalia's U.N.-backed federal government, led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who took office in February after a Western-backed electoral process.

As well as galvanising the international community to boost its response to the humanitarian crisis, the conference also aims to broker a security pact under which disparate forces would join together to form a functional national Somali army.

"Put simply, I want to strike a bargain whereby Somalia’s leaders carry out vital security reforms – including drawing up a clear plan for a National Army – in return for more help and training from the international community," British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote in an article published by a U.S. website on Tuesday.

"And when conditions allow, Somali troops will take over from their AMISOM allies," he wrote, referring to the African Union force which has been doing most of the fighting against Al-Shabaab.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Phil Stewart; Editing by Raisasa Kasolowsky)

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The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting

The citizens' meeting