Somalia famine spreads to new region in south; warning issued on aid
The Somalia famine has spread to the Bay region, where acute malnutrition afflicts a majority of children, the UN says. Aid experts say the starving are losing the strength to reach refugee camps.
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The UN reports that funding of anticipated assistance needs for the entire Horn of Africa is a little less than $1 billion short – which is actually a small improvement since the UN issued an international appeal in July.Skip to next paragraph
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The US is by far the largest single donor of drought-related assistance to Somalia and the Horn of Africa, having provided more than a half-billion dollars of assistance in the past year. Last week the head of the US Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, announced another $23 million in US aid to fight the famine.
Speaking Wednesday in Minneapolis, home to one of the largest concentrations of Somali immigrants in the United States, Dr. Shah reiterated recent assurances that the US will not prosecute aid groups whose assistance unwittingly falls into the hands of groups like Al Shabab. Aid groups have reported pulling efforts from Somalia in part over fears of running afoul of US antiterrorism laws.
“Any partner working with the government, or USAID in particular, will be immune from that type of prosecution,” Shah said in response to an audience question.
Whether the last month’s increase in international assistance to Somalia will continue is likely to be one of the factors determining the country’s short-term prospects.
Another factor will be Somalia’s governability. The UN this week is holding a conference of political leaders in Mogadishu to try to resolve a governing crisis that began when the central authority collapsed in 1991. On Tuesday it was announced that the leaders had adopted a “road map” to hold elections within a year, but the plan did not involve Al Shabab, calling into question how stabilizing the move would be.
But in the short term, international assistance is likely to be the primary ingredient for staving off even worse disaster, humanitarian experts say. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a UN project funded in part by the US, said Monday that Somalia faces total “social collapse” without a massive international response.