Somali authorities urged to release aid
Geneva - The International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday called on local authorities in war-torn Somalia's south and centre to release 140 trucks carrying aid for 240 000 needy.
The ICRC says authorities have blocked food deliveries destined for the Middle Shabelle and Galgadud regions since mid-December, which led the body on Thursday to suspend its distribution programme.
Middle Shabelle is controlled by the al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab Islamist insurgents while Galgadud is divided between rival forces including the Shebab and the pro-government Alhlu Sunna Wal Jama militia.
ICRC spokesperson Marie-Servane Desjonqueres said 140 trucks were currently blocked for "quality checks".
"After more than four weeks we have not received sufficiently clear explanations to explain why these supplies are still blocked," she told journalists in Geneva.
The ICRC is one of the largest providers of emergency aid in Somalia and one of very few operating in areas controlled by the Islamist insurgents.
The suspended aid includes food as well as seeds for farmers in the country struggling from years of war and the impact of a devastating drought and famine that hit last year.
"The longer we wait, the food won't get any better", said deputy head of operations for East Africa, Benjamin Wahren.
"We are waiting for an explantation... It doesn't take four weeks to do a quality check", he said.
The UN estimates that 250 000 Somalis are still living in famine conditions since the crisis was declared in July.
A 2012 appeal for $1.5bn is so far 5% funded, it said, with $82m received.