Aid Reaches Famine-Hit Region in Southern Somalia

Refugees at a camp in Kenya receive food aid provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Photo by: WFP Kenya

Some aid groups have been able to access some parts of southern Somalia that are controlled by the al-Shabab militant group, including Lower Shabelle, which is one of two regions where the U.N. has declared a famine.

Staff of Kuwait Direct Aid and employees of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have been distributing food aid in rebel-controlled areas since July 24, according to IRIN News.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program said it would begin airlifting food into Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, starting Wednesday, July 27.  Aside from Mogadishu, where the U.N. said up to 100,000 internally displaced people have arrived in the past two months, WFP also plans to airlift food to northern Kenya and eastern Ethiopia. It is still unclear if WFP will deliver food aid in southern Somalia, where it withdrew from in 2010 following threats to its aid workers from militants controlling the area.

Al-Shabab announced earlier this month that it is welcoming aid groups into areas where it previously banned any humanitarian operations, but the group later asserted that organizations covered by the ban, such as WFP, are still not welcome in areas under its control.

Aid groups and international officials continue to call for unconditional and unimpeded access into parts of Somalia, especially in the south. Most recently, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini has urged for the establishment of an air and humanitarian corridor to get relief supplies to people in the region.

Meanwhile, aid workers in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are reportedly being overwhelmed by the number of arriving Somali refugees, resulting in delays in the registration of new arrivals and distribution of food rations. Some new arrivals wait for up to two weeks before they are registered as refugees, and longer before they receive food and shelter, IRIN says.

New pledges

The United Nations is reportedly planning to hold an East African donors conference in Kenya on Wednesday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier announced that U.N. agencies need an additional $1 billion to respond adequately to the needs of drought victims.

>> UN Seeks $1B More for East African Crisis Response

Donors, meantime, continue to pledge new or additional aid to boost the international response in the region. Among recent pledges are:

  • €25 million ($36.2 million) from Spain, to be coursed through WFP, Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF and the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

  • 2 million ($1.15 million) New Zealand dollars from New Zealand, for WFP and New Zealand-based international NGOs.

  • €1 million from Ireland, for the International Committee of the Red Cross’ emergency feeding programs in Somalia.

Somalian Al-Shabab rebels have banned the World Food Program and other foreign groups from areas under its control. What should these drought responders do? Vote on Facebook!

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.