By Paul Ndiho
JULY 26, 2011
The U.N. World Food Program will start airlifts into Mogadishu to get vital supplies of special nutritious foods to malnourished children. Other aid agencies also warned over weekend that the plight of famine victims in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia is close to catastrophic.
There is a life and death situation in Somalia. The W-F-P says the first shipments are on the way:
“We do already have some plans to start airlifts of vital food that will help children and mothers Into Mogadishu where we have been operating for the last few years where we have been providing both a combination of monthly rations and as well as wet feeding. New arrivals who are coming in there are actually able to get what we call wet feeding basically a ready-made meal when they come to a distribution site.” McGuffin said.
The World Food Program is among several groups that had been ordered out of rebel controlled areas. Aid agencies have been preparing to return, describing the situation in Somalia as increasingly desperate. But the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants who control the famine-stricken parts of the country say aid agencies may not return. This reverses a pledge from the militants to allow the workers to operate freely.
WFP spokesperson, Rene McGuffin says that WFP needs safe access to other parts of the country.
“The real challenge is actually in Southern Somalia, where, we have not been able to operate since 2010 and perhaps it’s no surprise that as result of this massive drought one of the driest years on record in 60 years, combined with high food prices combined with conflict and the lack of access by humanitarian organizations like WFP that you have such a dire situation. I mean really the situation on the ground in Southern Somalia is life or death.”
Some 10 million people are affected by famine and drought in a region, dubbed the “triangle of death” by local media, that straddles Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
The U-N says it has a “moral imperative” to get back into the areas from which it had been ordered out. Melissa Fleming is the UNHCR Spokesperson.
“We are really trying our best to work inside Somalia so that people don’t have to make this devastating, life threatening trek into Kenya and Ethiopia. If we could aid, and I think we all know this, the victims on the spot, prevent them from leaving their villages, we would not be in this terrible situation we are seeing now.”
WFP is currently reaching 1.5 million people in Somalia, and says it is scaling up to reach an additional 2.2 million people in the previously inaccessible south of the country.
WFP says is preparing to open up a number of new routes – by land and air – into the core of the famine zone to establish the necessary operating conditions, including those that will secure the safety of humanitarian personnel.
“Somalia’s one of the most difficult, dangerous, risky places that we can work in the world. We’ve lost fourteen staff since 2008 inside Somalia but we are ready and we do have plans. But we do need safe access and so we’ve been working through the UN Humanitarian Coordinative for Somalia seeking that assurance that we will have safe access to the people, mostly children and mothers who are in desperate need.” Rene McGuffin said.
Al Shabaab accused the United Nations last week of exaggerating the severity of the drought gripping the south of the country and of politicizing the crisis. Well over 100-thousand Somalis have fled since January, mainly to Kenya and Ethiopia. Hundreds of Somalis are arriving in Ethiopia and Kenya each day.