Clinton Urges Al-Shabaab Militants to Let Food Aid Into Somalia
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group that controls parts of drought-stricken Somalia, to allow food aid into the south, where 300,000 children may starve to death.
“I don’t understand what possible political or ideological benefit comes from allowing women and children to starve in areas you’re responsible for,” Clinton told a United Nations meeting in New York yesterday.
Aid agencies are mostly barred from operating in areas held by the al-Qaeda-inspired rebel group that has been fighting to oust the Western-backed administration led by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed for the past four years. Much of south and central Somalia is under the control of al-Shabaab, which withdrew from Mogadishu last month, allowing the government to take back power in the capital.
The most devastating drought in six decades in the Horn of Africa has hit Somalia the hardest, with famine in six southern regions putting 750,000 people at risk of death in the next four months, according to an e-mailed statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs today.
The crisis has left 1.5 million Somalis internally displaced and forced 917,000 to flee to neighboring nations including Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen, the UN said. About 13.3 million people in East Africa need aid, it said.
Aid agencies are unable to reach about 300,000 children in southern Somalia, Anthony Lake, executive director of the UN Children’s Fund, said at the same UN meeting yesterday.
“Their suffering may be receding from our front pages and our television screens and their suffering may be off camera, but each one of those 300,000 could soon be dead,” he said.
The situation in Somalia will probably get worse before it improves as the effects of drought and famine spread in the region, Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN World Food Programme, said in an interview in New York yesterday.
“The Horn of Africa is the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world still and we’re not out of the woods,” Sheeran said.
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