Aid flights brave war-torn Somalia

2011-08-01 11:43
Mogadishu - Aid groups ramped up operations on Monday to help millions of drought-stricken people in the Horn of Africa, with the UN World Food Programme expanding its airlifts of emergency food supplies.

The WFP last week begun airlifting peanut-based paste for malnourished children in the Mogadishu and widened the distribution to Doolow in the south of Somalia.

"Another aircraft arrived today, the sixth flight since the airlift began last Wednesday - the airlift is an ongoing operation and will continue," said WFP spokesperson David Orr, speaking from the war-torn Somali capital.

"That brings the total amount delivered into Mogadishu to over 80 tons of specialised highly nutritious food for malnourished children."

About 12 million people are affected by the devastating drought across the Horn of Africa, the worst to hit the region in decades.

The UN has declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia but the effects have been felt more widely across the country, as well as in parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

Supplies have been delivered through local partners in Mogadishu, Orr said, with supplies for 80 000 children for a month so far been distributed.

However, recent heavy fighting between the African Union forces and the Islamist Shabaab insurgents in the Somali capital has raised fears that aid distribution could be hampered.

Cases of measles

Tens of thousands of Somalis have fled to Mogadishu from elsewhere in the country. Relentless conflict and the drought has left millions of Somalis in need of emergency humanitarian aid.

Malnutrition rates in Somalia are currently the highest in the world, while thousands more are fleeing daily to seek refuge in neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, and emergency relief efforts continue elsewhere in the regions.

"WFP have also opened an airbridge into Doloow in southern Somalia, delivering high energy biscuits and other emergency supplies," Orr added.

"We are also continuing with the larger shipments of food by sea to Mogadishu, but this takes longer," said Orr.

Meanwhile the UN children agency Unicef launched a mass vaccination campaign for polio and measles in the world's biggest refugee camp, the Dadaab complex in eastern Kenya, home to some 380 000 largely Somali refugees.

"Teams are going from tent to tent, to make sure all children aged between six months and five years are given life-saving vaccines," said Melissa Corkum, a Unicef spokesperson.

"There are cases of measles in the camp as children are coming from Somalia, where immunisation is very low."

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  wfp  |  somalia  |  africa drought  |  east africa hunger  |  east africa

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