“Definitely thousands” have died, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula, told reporters on Tuesday, though the data to support that is yet to come.

No mother should have to lose her child. Owliyo Hassan Salaad has watched four die this year. A drought in the Horn of Africa has taken them, one by one, AP reports.

Now she cradles her frail and squalling 3-year-old, Ali Osman, whom she carried on a 90-kilometer (55-mile) walk from her village to Somalia’s capital, desperate not to lose him too. Sitting on the floor of a malnutrition treatment center filled with anxious mothers, she can barely speak about the small bodies buried back home in soil too dry for planting.

Deaths have begun in the region’s most parched drought in four decades. Previously unreported data shared with The Associated Press show at least 448 deaths this year at malnutrition treatment centers in Somalia alone. Authorities in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are now shifting to the grim task of trying to prevent famine.

Many more people are dying beyond the notice of authorities, like Salaad’s four children, all younger than 10. Some die in remote pastoral communities. Some die on treks in search of help. Some die even after reaching displacement camps, malnourished beyond aid.

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