Somali PM accuses UN of holding back aid

Abdiweli Mohamed Ali says relief aid is not reaching those in need in famine-stricken Horn of Africa nation.

Horn of Africa Drought

The UN is preventing aid from reaching victims of Somalia’s drought, the country’s prime minister has said.

Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said on Thursday the world body was hoarding supplies and failing to distribute them to those in need.

The comments came as the UN World Food Programme airlifted tonnes of emergency supplies to Mogadishu, the capital, to feed malnourished children in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa nation.

Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, the chief operating officer of the World Food Programme, said the food in the warehouse “looks like a lot but actually it’s not a lot of food”.

“The food in the warehouse would actually feed a million people for one day,” he told Al Jazeera from Rome, Italy.

“To somebody who is just sort of maybe not as familiar with food distribution, it may look like stockpiling … There have been some unfortunate media portrayals of this as if it was stockpiling.

“I can assure you there would be no purpose for stockpiling in a situation like this.

“The World Food Programme takes this function very, very seriously. We are basically the life line and food that we have in our supplies we’ll get to people wherever we can.”

Challiss McDonough, a WFP spokeswoman, said:”We are distributing food in Mogadishu, we are doing it everyday, we are feeding over 300,000 people in Mogadishu including feeding centres around the city.”

A plane carrying 10 tonnes of peanut butter-based nutritional paste flew from neighbouring Kenya to Mogadishu on Wednesday, said UN officials.

According to a WFP official, David Orr, this was the first airlift of food aid since the United Nations declared famine in parts of Somalia last week.

Airlifts were to begin on Tuesday to Mogadishu, from Dolo in Ethiopia and Wajir in Kenya, but were delayed by one day due to administrative complications.

Orr said that the series of deliveries would not stop once they were launched, as “they will just keep coming and coming in an ongoing operation”.

Somalia has been embroiled in conflict since its last leader, Siad Barre, was overthrown by warlords, who then began turning on each other, two decades ago.

Anti-government groups have spent the last few years battling the weak UN-backed government in an attempt to overthrow it.

Al-Shabab, a group said to have links to al-Qaeda and is in control of large areas of southern Somalia, forced the WFP to pull out from the region in early 2010.

And last week the group said it would not allow aid groups to operate in its territories, exacerbating the drought crisis even further.

Fresh fighting

On Thursday heavy fighting erupted in Mogadishu as African Union peacekeepers launched an offensive aimed at protecting famine relief efforts from attacks by al-Qaeda-linked fighters, officials said.

At least six people died.

Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping force, said al-Shabab had sent 300 reinforcement fighters to Mogadishu in recent days.

Ankunda said the AU force believes that al-Shabab is trying to prevent aid from reaching the tens of thousands of famine refugees who have arrived in Mogadishu this month.

The drought in southern Somalia has created a triangle of hunger in the Horn of Africa, where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet.

The handful of relief groups spared by anti-government groups’ ban have been struggling to cope with the rising numbers of people in need of humanitarian aid.

Last weekend the International Red Cross said it had distributed 400 tonnes of food in drought-hit areas controlled by al-Shabab rebels.

The UN declared famine last week in the two southern Somalia regions of Bakool and Lower Shabelle, where up to 350,000 people are at risk of starvation.

In Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, a team of humanitarian organisations met donors to streamline operations to assist victims of the drought – who also live in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda. 

The WFP estimates more than 11.3 million people need aid across the Horn of Africa.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies