As the famine in Somalia worsens, one of the country's top leaders paid a visit on Friday to Feed My Starving Children's headquarters in Coon Rapids to learn more about a massive drive to send food from Minnesota to Somalia.

Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, speaker of the Parliament for Somalia's transitional federal government, was in the United States to attend the United Nations conference. He made a side trip to Minnesota to meet with members of the local Somali-American community who have been frantically raising money for famine victims in Somalia.

U.N. officials recently warned that 750,000 people in Somalia -- mostly children -- could starve to death in the next few months.

On Friday, Aden toured the Feed My Starving Children warehouse, accompanied by a small entourage.

Among them was Sultan Aliyoow, a Twin Cities resident who is also the tribal leader for a region in the south-central part of Somalia.

That region, known as the country's "breadbasket," has been hit especially hard by the spreading famine.

Aliyoow teamed up with Feed My Starving Children's leaders this summer to provide funds and volunteers to pack and ship a large container of food -- or 272,000 meals --to Somalia.

"We're excited to have you here and see some of the work that FMSC does," Mark Crea, CEO of Feed My Starving Children, said, extending a hand to Aden.

Aden, speaking through an interpreter, thanked him for helping famine victims, and said he hoped to take this idea back to the people of Somalia "so they can help themselves."

They toured the large kitchen where food is packed into cardboard boxes labeled "MannaPack."

Crea explained what was inside: food that's fortified with minerals and vitamins made to help malnourished children.

The food, he said, is designed by food scientists at General Mills and Cargill to contain ingredients "to help build a child."

To illustrate his point, he showed Aden before-and-after photos of a Haitian infant who went from skin and bones to cherubic in a matter of weeks after eating the fortified food.

The speaker nodded, as he studied the photos. The famine crisis, he said, is far from over.

"Because of the magnitude of the problem, many people still have not received any support."

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488