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GENEVA (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands more Somalis are on the brink of leaving their country, where floods have aggravated already desperate humanitarian conditions, United Nations agencies warned on Tuesday.
Flooding this month has driven 16,000 more people from their homes in the Horn of African country where about 1.5 million have been uprooted since the start of 2007, said Elisabeth Byrs of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Some 3.6 million Somalis now need international assistance, compared to 1.8 million last year, Byrs said, warning that the country's increasingly desperate people would try to escape abroad without a quick influx of foreign aid.
"In the worst of scenarios we could imagine that 283,000 could leave Somalia and this could create problems throughout the region," she told a news briefing in Geneva.
Foreign assistance is very hard to distribute inside Somalia because of the widespread violence there, attacks on aid workers and the constant threat of coastal piracy.
The U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees said it was not clear whether a further wave of Somali migrants would head to Kenya, Ethiopia or Yemen across the Gulf of Aden. All three countries are already struggling with large numbers of Somali refugees.
Inside Somalia, the World Health Organisation warned that medical conditions are also worrisome, with outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea, cholera, measles and respiratory infections.
"We see major health concerns continuing for Somalis," WHO spokesman Paul Garwood told the Geneva briefing.
(Reporting by Nicole Matschoss and Laura MacInnis; Editing by Giles Elgood)