UN Aid Flows at Last to Parched Somalia

Al-Shabab militants allow aid groups in for first time in 2 years

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 17, 2011 9:11 AM CDT

(Newser) – UN aid groups have finally begun delivering supplies to areas controlled by islamist militants in Somalia, as the Horn of Africa faces its worst drought in 60 years, reports the BBC. Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked militant group, banned international aid groups two years ago, but tens of thousands of refugees streaming out of their territory in search of help finally forced al-Shabab to lift that ban 10 days ago. "They gave assurances that our access for humanitarian purposes would be unhindered and that we would be able to reach the people who need support most," said UNICEF's rep for Somalia.

The first aid, a five-ton air drop of food, clean water equipment, and medicine, was flown in Wednesday, to an area 125 miles northwest of Mogadishu. But with vast demand from more than 10 million people needing help in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, aid agencies are hoping to drum up $100 million in additional aid. "More children have died of malnutrition in the first four months of this year than in the whole of last year," one aid worker tells MSNBC.

Newly arrived refugees wait to receive their rations at a food distribution center of the Dagahaley refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border in Dadaab, Kenya, Saturday, July 16, 2011.
Newly arrived refugees wait to receive their rations at a food distribution center of the Dagahaley refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border in Dadaab, Kenya, Saturday, July 16, 2011.   (AP Photo/Thomas Mukoya, Pool)
Somali women   from southern Somalia holding babies stand in a line to receive aid at a refugee camp  in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, July 16, 2011.
Somali women from southern Somalia holding babies stand in a line to receive aid at a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saturday, July 16, 2011.   (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
Somali's line up to receive food rations in Mogadishu on July 16, 2011.  Thousands of Somalis have fled into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia seeking aid in recent weeks, in the wake of the Horn of Africa's worst drought in decades that has left millions of people facing starvation. But many...
Somali's line up to receive food rations in Mogadishu on July 16, 2011. Thousands of Somalis have fled into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia seeking aid in recent weeks, in the wake of the Horn of Africa's...   (Getty Images)
Ahmed Mohamed, 4,  a malnourished child from southern Somalia, sits on bed at Banadir hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Thursday, July 14, 2011.  Some thousands of people have arrived in Mogadishu from Somalia over the past two weeks seeking assistance and the number is increasing by the day, due to lack...
Ahmed Mohamed, 4, a malnourished child from southern Somalia, sits on bed at Banadir hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, Thursday, July 14, 2011. Some thousands of people have arrived in Mogadishu from...   (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
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