Famine in Somalia has killed more than a quarter million people, and half of the fallen were children under age five.  And a United Nations report admits the world body could have done more to prevent the tragedy in the Horn of Africa.

The toll is horrifying and even worse than a previous famine disaster in 1992.

“Famine and severe food insecurity in Somalia claimed the lives of about 258,000 people between October 2010 and April 2012, including 133,000 children under five,” stated the report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and the US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network.  It’s the first scientific estimate of how many people died.

“Warnings that began as far back as the drought in 2010 did not trigger sufficient early action,” according to Philippe Lazzarini, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.  He also said that about 2.7 million people are still in need of life-saving assistance and support to rebuild their livelihoods.

But there’s more to it than ugly numbers:  While the world has been slow to respond, the UN actually did declare a famine in July 2011 in Somalia's Southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions.  

But they were controlled by the militant Islamist group al-Shabab, which is aligned to al-Qaeda.  Al-Shabab denied there was a famine and banned several Western aid agencies from operating on territory under its control.