More aid reaching Somalia
The UN Food Agency says it has been able to reach more parts of famine-struck Somalia in the past month but there are still big security challenges in the capital, Mogadishu, even though the Islamist rebels have left.
About 3.6 million people in Somalia are at risk of starvation as the Horn of Africa experiences its worst drought in decades. The worst-hit Somalis live in areas controlled by al-Shabab militants, which have forbidden people to accept Western aid, and many have risked their lives to travel to Mogadishu in search of food.
The rebels, who have been waging a four-year insurgency against the Western-backed government, withdrew from the capital at the weekend in what they called a tactical move. But there have been outbreaks of fighting.
Al-Shabab's retreat has raised concerns of a security vacuum that AU peacekeepers and government troops would not be able to fill.
The militants, who oppose Western intervention, imposed a ban on aid agencies. They lifted the ban last month when the food crisis hit critical levels, but then reneged on the dealt.
"We have, over the last month, gained access to areas in which we were previously not able to operate," Stanlake Samkange, the World Food Programme's director for east and central Africa, said yesterday.
The World Food Programme had said that aid agencies had not been able to reach the more than 2million Somalis in the worst-hit areas, most of which are in southern Somalia, because al-Shabab had refused them access. The World Food Programme now provides assistance to more than 1.5 million people in Somalia.
Samkange said that in the past month the World Food Programme has received more than $25-million in contributions and pledges, and has distributed more than 100000t of aid throughout the region.
More than $100-million worth of food is on its way to the Horn of Africa.
But the aid could be at risk, with US legislators proposing a cut in funding of $488-million for USAid in the next financial year. That would be $705-million less than the Obama administration has requested.
The bleak economic outlook in the US and Europe is raising fears that some sources of assistance could dry up.