US, UN STEP UP AID TO SOMALIA

A US food aid program for the Horn of Africa was stepped up yesterday, with additional airlifts planned for Kenya's northeast. Also yesterday, a 45-truck convoy from the UN World Food Program arrived in Gelib, in southern Somalia, carrying nearly 500 tons of food, spokesman Paul Mitchell said. It was the first food to reach the community of 40,000 since the beginning of the year, he said.

The two relief operations are the latest to help feed millions of people in Somalia, which is beset by civil war and drought. Aid officials estimate at least 1.5 million Somalis could starve if food is not delivered immediately. Food also is needed by refugees and drought victims in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

Somalis were streaming into Kenya at about 1,000 per day up until Friday, when the influx dropped to 200 to 300 a day, said Panos Moumtzis of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He tentatively credited the drop to relief operations, but suggested increased warfare could also be the reason.

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