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NAIROBI, 14 August 2008 (IRIN) - Food insecurity compounded by inflation and recent fighting between insurgents and government forces around the town of Beletweyne in central Somalia's Hiran region has led to a sharp increase in the number of street children.

"More and more children are taking to the streets; some to engage in petty trade while others are just there in search of food," a journalist based in Beletweyne, who declined to be named, told IRIN.

The journalist said children, numbering at least 100, had resorted to Beletweyne streets in recent months as access to food dwindled for many families.