AU to hold donor summit on Somalia famine

Conference follows criticism that continental bloc has stood idly by as millions are affected among its member states.

    The African Union is to organise a donor conference later this month in a bid to raise money for millions of drought-affected people in Somalia.

    AU Deputy Chairman Erasmus Mwencha said African heads of states, regional economic blocs and international organisations would gather at the AU's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to map out strategies to help starving Somalis.

    Mwencha issued the statement while visiting the AU peacekeeping mission in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

    The UN, which has declared a famine in two regions in the country's south, says $2.5bn is needed to alleviate the crisis.

    The summit, due to be held on August 9, comes as aid groups step up operations for millions of starving people in the Horn of Africa nation and amid criticism that African countries have not done enough to alleviate the situation.

    Somalia has been worst affected by the drought that has forced thousands of people to flee to neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya. Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda have also been hit by the crisis.

    On Monday, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) started to expand emergency food deliveries in Somalia days after the Somali prime minister accused the UN of stockpiling relief aid.

    The ICRC distributed food to 162,000 people in southern regions of Somalia held by al-Shabab, the rebel Islamist movement, while the UN food agency increased its relief airlifts that began last week. 

    Since Wednesday, the WFP has delivered more than 80 tonnes of emergency food aid to malnourished children in Mogadishu and expanded the distribution to Doolow region in the south of the country.

    "Another aircraft arrived today, the sixth flight since the irlift began last Wednesday - the airlift is an ongoing operation and will continue," said David Orr, a WFP spokesman, in Mogadishu.

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

    Cases of measles

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

    The ICRC, one of the few aid groups allowed by al-Shabab to operate in southern Somalia regions under the rebels' control, said it had delivered 3,000 tonnes of food.

    "This is the first large-scale food distribution in that part of the country since the beginning of the year," the agency said in a statement.

    "But this distribution assists only a small percentage of those in need. More aid will be required to help the population bridge the gap until the next harvest in December," said Andrea Heath, the ICRC's economic and security co-ordinator for Somalia.

    Malnutrition rates in Somalia are the highest in the world, and the relentless conflict and the drought have left millions in need of emergency humanitarian aid.

    In Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp in eastern Kenya, the UN children's agency UNICEF launched a mass vaccination against polio and measles.

    "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 spokeswoman.

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

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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