Islamist militia gives UN permission to deliver aid as thousands flee famine
The United Nations has resumed aid deliveries into Islamist-controlled Somalia in an effort to stem the daily tide of 3,500 famine refugees pouring into neighbouring countries.
Humanitarian assistance was delivered at the weekend into central Somalia for the first time since UN operations were halted 18 months ago following threats and extortion by the radical Islamic militia, the Shabab.
The devastating drought and famine across the Horn of Africa has sent millions of starving people into camps. The international response has been hindered by the chaos in Somalia, where foreign aid agencies have been denied access to Shabab-controlled regions.
However, the scale of the crisis has prompted the militia, which is fighting a war with the UN-backed government, to soften its stance and allow in aid groups with "no hidden agenda".
The first shipment of high-nutrition biscuits and other emergency food supplies from UN children's agency Unicef has been airlifted to Baidoa, 120 miles north-west of the capital Mogadishu.
"We are ready to work anywhere in Somalia, provided we get unhindered access to the most vulnerable children," said Unicef's Rozanne Chorlton. The Shabab has pledged allegiance to al-Qa'ida and is treated as a terrorist organisation by Western governments.
The UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) ceased operations in the region last year after threats by the Shabab. The WFP said the security of its personnel could no longer be guaranteed but privately officials said the militia was demanding "protection money". (© Independent News Service)