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Aid chiefs call for huge effort to cope with crisis in Somalia

THE Irish public is expected to donate €20m to help starving people in the famine-stricken Horn of Africa.

This is in addition to the €7m already provided through the taxpayer by the Government.

Some 38 tonnes of emergency water and shelter materials is due to arrive in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu this morning and will be distributed by aid agency Concern.

Speaking at a specially convened meeting of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs committee yesterday, Justin Kilcullen, director of Trocaire, said a combined total of €27m in donations was a "significant response".

Mr Kilcullen said that for too long Somalia had been treated as a "failed state" and seen as a source of terrorism by the international community.

He said the country's "political anarchy" had made it difficult to provide aid to where it was most needed.

However he warned against any military action against the country's Islamic rebels saying this would be seen as the United Nations taking advantage of the famine to intervene.

Tom Arnold of Concern described the Irish response to the crisis as "broadly adequate".

But he said other international donors must step up and that we must "look beyond the traditional western donors".

"There is a group of Middle Eastern countries who, I think, should be doing more... Between last year and this year, because of the (rising) price of oil, the Gulf States have earned an additional $234bn (€161bn) so a small, tiny portion of that additional income could solve this problem," he added.

Jim Clarken of Oxfam Ireland said the crisis was expected to peak in October.

"The loss of life will be staggering if we don't act quickly. One estimation is that a fifth of the Somalia population could be dead within a year," he warned.

Meanwhile, a technical team from Irish Aid has arrived in Somalia to assess how Irish funding could be best used in the relief operation.

Included in the group is Captain Tim O'Connor, a Defence Forces engineer who was deployed to Haiti following its devastating earthquake last year, and Kevin Farrell, Ireland's hunger envoy.

It also emerged yesterday that Somali refugees are being forced into an under-equipped camp in northern Kenya while another site lies unused. Kenya's government and the UN refugee agency said last week that Ifo 2 camp, at Dadaab, would be opened to cope with the fresh influx.

Alfred Mutua, a Kenyan government spokesman, said the camp should open by the end of Thursday.

Irish Independent