Up to 1 million Somalis face a growing risk of starvation. But most United Nations and relief officials who supervise distribution of food aid are being forced to evacuate the capital, because of fighting. ``We had to pull out,'' says Jim Baker, director of special economic assistance for the United Nations Children's Fund, speaking by phone from UN headquarters in New York. He cited security risks to personnel and the danger of making deliveries in the war zones.
The problem is not availability of international aid, Mr. Baker says, but getting it distributed safely. With many relief personnel being pulled out, food distribution and the monitoring of needs will be limited.
International experts cited examples of emergency needs:
Borama, a northwest Somalian town. Its population doubled from 50,000 to 100,000 within the past year, as people fled drought and war in the region. An eyewitness said a four-mile-long line of refugees came to Borama recently seeking food.
``Babies are dying,'' says one expert. One seven-month-old baby still alive weighed only three pounds when examined recently.
Northeastern Somalian refugee camps. In August, because of the lack of security, the UN ended food deliveries.
Central Somalia, north of Mogadishu. Fighting has led to displacement of refugees and of the local population.
Mogadishu. ``Perhaps the worst situation is here in Mogadishu,'' says an international source. ``The most fortunate among the lower class eat once a day.''
Street fighting raged in Mogadishu yesterday, despite a cease-fire call by Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre. Rebels said reinforcements were moving into the city. Somalia's ethnic groups have a common language and religion, yet clans are pursuing violent rivalries.