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
UN Aid Flows at Last to Parched Somalia
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)

(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. (Read more Horn of Africa stories.)

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