Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Despite aid theft, UN calls for more food aid to Somalia

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations called for more international help for famine-struck Somalia on Monday — even as the organization's World Food Program admitted for the first time it has been investigating the theft of food aid for more than two months.
Thousands of sacks of stolen aid had popped up for sale in markets alongside refugee camps filled with starving people living in appallingly filthy conditions, according to an investigative report by The Associated Press.
But WFP warned that the 'scale and intensity' of the famine is such that countries need to continue to send aid — and failure to do so would lead to 'many unnecessary deaths.'
The wider UN call for more help Monday came from the UN Security Council, which gets involved in issues that are additionally considered to pose a threat to international peace.
Long considered to be a failed state, Somalia has since 2006 faced an insurgency led by al Shabab, a fearsome militant Islamist group that has been affiliated with al-Qaida since 2007.

Somalia has also had no effective government since the downfall of the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, while pirate gangs have for more than five years been a major threat to international shipping off the country's coast.
But in its statement seeking increased international donations, the 15-member Security Council told Somalia's struggling transitional government that future support was conditional on its ability to boost security and services over the next year.

Somali political groups — excluding the insurgents — are to meet next month to establish a government 'roadmap' for the next 12 months that would set targets for improving the performance of the transitional federal institutions — or TSIs.
'The members of the Security Council noted that future support to the TSIs would be contingent upon the completion of the tasks of the roadmap,' said the council statement, read by Hardeep Singh Puri, UN ambassador of India, which presides over the council this month.

The UN's $2.4 billion famine appeal remains less than half funded as the world body warns 3.2 million people are on the brink of starvation. The already catastrophic situation is expected to worsen because of high levels of malnutrition, still rising cereal prices and a below-average rainy season harvest.
Expressing the 'serious concern' of Security Council members that the appeal is not fully funded, the body's statement 'urged members states to contribute.'
WFP said it had established 'strengthened and rigorous' monitoring and control of food distribution in Somalia after The Associated Press report.
While it disputed AP's claims about the scale of the thefts, program officials nevertheless admitted that humanitarian supply lines remained 'highly vulnerable to looting, attack and diversion by armed groups.'
More than 450,000 Somalis live in famine zones controlled by al Shabab, which the monitoring group Human Rights Watch said in a report Sunday had seized what stocks families had, and imposed taxes that made it almost impossible for them to survive.

The report added, however, all other parties in the country's armed conflict had also committed serious violations of the laws of war, including the Transitional Federal Government, the African Union peacekeeping forces known by the acronym AMISOM, and Somali militias backed by Kenya and Ethiopia.'All sides have used artillery in the capital, Mogadishu, in an unlawful manner that has caused civilian casualties,' the report said. 'Al Shabab has fired mortars indiscriminately from densely populated areas, and the TFG and AMISOM forces have often responded in kind with indiscriminate counterattacks. As a result, civilians have not known where to turn for protection.'

Source: The Gazette

Monday, 1 August 2011

Somali famine victims lose homes as torrential rain hits refugee camps

Renewed appeals for aid made as wet weather adds to misery of thousands camped around Mogadishu

Tens of thousands of famine-stricken Somali refugees were left cold and drenched after torrential rains pounded their makeshift structures in the capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday, leading to renewed appeals for aid.

Rain is needed to alleviate the drought but it wrecked many of the makeshift homes made of sticks and scraps of cloth.

Suffering refugees said more aid was vital but agencies have limited reach in Somalia where Islamist militants, including the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, are waging an insurgency against the country's weak UN-backed government.

"We are living in plight, we left our homes, lost our animals and farms so we ask everyone to help us to survive," Abdi Muse Abshir said.

Lul Hussein, a mother of five, said her family had a sleepless night after their makeshift home crumbled.

"We are starved and we don't have enough help," she said. "Who's helping us? No one! So we are already between death and bad life."

Al-Shabab, the most dangerous group among the militants al-Shabab, has barred major relief organisations from operating in the territories it controls.

The UN said tens of thousands of people have died in Somalia in areas held by the Islamist rebels because food aid could not reach them.

The African Union peacekeeping force fears al-Shabab may try to attack the Mogadishu camps that house tens of thousands of famine refugees, disrupting even further the distribution of food aid. The AU force is attempting to push the militants' front line away from the camps.

The drought and the famine have affected more than 11.8 million people in the Horn of Africa and created a triangle of hunger where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet.

The World Food Programme says it cannot reach 2.2 million Somalis who live in territory controlled by al-Shabab in south-central Somalia.