A Minnesota-based international nonprofit is rushing to rally volunteers and raise funds to fight a looming famine in Somalia in what is shaping up to be the largest meal-packing event in its 30-year history.

Feed My Starving Children, a charity in Coon Rapids, wants to recruit 30,000 volunteers to pack 6 million meals in the coming days to help a nation where millions are grappling with dire food and water shortages.

As of Friday morning, about 17,400 people had signed up to help — the most volunteers that the nonprofit has ever recruited before a meal-packing event, said spokeswoman Allison Schwartz.

“We will pack as many meals as we possibly can,” Schwartz said.

The meals cost 22 cents apiece. The charity is working with nonprofits, faith groups and leaders from the Twin Cities Somali community for the “Love Somalia MobilePack” event, which began Friday and runs through Monday at St. Paul RiverCentre. Metro Transit will provide free rides to and from the event.

Somalia is one of several African nations where more than 20 million people are in the grip of famine or may soon be faced with it, a situation that the United Nations has called the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

For months, Minnesota groups have been scrambling to avert catastrophe by sending aid and organizing fundraising events, including the Dine Out for Somalia campaign in April.

Mohamed Idris, executive director of the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa, just returned from a visit to the region and said the severe drought has ravaged the landscape.

“It was devastating,” said Idris, whose organization is participating in the packing event. “This is the longest drought ever seen in that part of the world.”

Children are especially hard-hit in such conditions, organizers say. More than 6 million Somalians alone — or about half the country’s population — are at risk, nearly a million of them children under the age of 5, according to the U.N.

“Just that little meal can save a lot of people,” said Nimo Ahmed, executive director of the Minnesota Community of African People with Disabilities, a group that’s also involved in the event. “It’s very urgent. We need as many volunteers as we can get.”

Volunteers can sign up online or donate toward the $1.5 million needed to fund the meals, Schwartz said.