Wednesday 22 November 2017

UN to defy rebels as aid drop planned for Somalia

Mike Pflanz in Nairobi

FOOD aid for starving Somalis living in Islamist-held territory could be flown into the country within "a week to 10 days", the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said.

The international effort to bring humanitarian relief to 3.7 million Somalis who need urgent help to beat drought and famine is being hampered by al-Shabaab's refusal to let most agencies into their territory.

The al-Qa'ida-inspired insurgents backtracked on an earlier promise to allow access.

Now the WFP is discussing flying food into the country and dropping it into the worst affected areas.

"There are 2.2 million people yet to be reached," said Josette Sheeran, the head of the agency.

"It is the most dangerous environment we are working in in the world.

"But people are dying. It's not about politics, it's about saving lives now."

WFP was one of the many organisations that al-Shabaab effectively forced out last year after imposing strict conditions of operation, including no foreign female staff.

The group also taxed aid convoys.

Regis Chapman, the head of WFP's operations in Somalia, said that food deliveries would soon start into the limited parts of Mogadishu controlled by the internationally-backed government.

He added that "within a week to 10 days" WFP would be sending food into areas controlled by the Islamists.

The Red Cross yesterday said it had delivered 400 tonnes of food to 24,000 people in Gedo province -- the first time it had taken supplies into al-Shabaab's territory since 2009.

More than 2 million Somalis in the worst-affected areas, including two famine zones, live in al-Shabaab territory and cannot be reached by international aid.

They are among more than 11.5 million people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia who need urgent help to keep them from starving after at least two years with no rain.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation will meet with the heads of most major charities in Rome to draw the political attention of world leaders to the crisis.

Shock

The United Nations has declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia and warned it could spread further afield as people contend with the triple shock of drought, rising food prices amid critical shortages and conflict.

Failure by the international community to provide support amid a raging insurgency across much of southern Somalia would mean the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly children, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warned last night.

"We either stand back, sit on our hands and do nothing and wait for the perfect world to arrive, or we get in there and we work now.

"This will be a complex, dangerous and risky task," Mr Rudd added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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