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WFP to start airlifting aid into Mogadishu

2011-07-22 07:53

Rome - The World Food Programme will start airlifting aid into Mogadishu "within days", the UN agency's director said on Thursday, after the United Nations officially declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia.

Speaking during a visit to the Somali capital, Josette Sheeran said WFP was also looking at ways of getting food supplies into drought-stricken areas controlled by the Islamist Shabaab militants "as quickly as possible".

"WFP will start airlifts within days into Mogadishu to get vital supplies of special nutritious foods for the malnourished children who so desperately need it," Sheeran was quoted as saying in a statement from WFP headquarters in Rome.

"WFP welcomes the statements of those controlling areas of southern Somalia, that humanitarian aid will now be allowed," she said.

"We are testing the ground to see how we can best get life-saving supplies in as quickly as possible to those at the epicentre of the famine in the south."

WFP was forced to pull out of southern Somalia last year following a series of threats and curbs imposed by the Shabaab, but has continued to operate in other parts of the country.

Sheeran said WFP was reaching 1.5 million people in Somalia and was scaling up operations to reach an additional 2.2 million people in the south of the country.

"WFP is preparing to open up a number of new routes - by land and air - into the core of the famine zone," it said.