Airlift of Food for Somalia and Horn of Africa to Begin Tuesday

Posted July 26th, 2011 at 7:25 am (UTC-5)
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The U.N. World Food Program will begin airlifting food to Somalia Tuesday. WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran says this will be the first airlift of food since the U.N. declared a famine in two parts of Somalia last week.

The United Nations says “massive” action is needed to save millions of people living in the Horn of Africa from starvation. USAid says more than 11 million people are now in need of emergency assistance to survive.

The world body announced it will begin an airlift of food aid into the Somali capital, Mogadishu, as well as eastern Ethiopia and northern Kenya on Tuesday.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization held an emergency meeting Monday in Rome, where its chief, Jacques Diouf, described as “catastrophic” the situation facing the region in the midst of the worst drought in 60 years.

A donors' conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, when the WFP will seek pledges of $1.6 billion in aid for the millions of malnourished people – many of them children.

In Somalia, described as the “epicenter of the famine,” Sheeran said around one-third of the population is facing starvation. USAid reports more than 600,000 Somalis have fled to neighboring countries.

WFP Director Sheeran said that in Somalia there are soaring levels of malnutrition. She described desperate mothers forced to abandon their children along roadsides as they traveled to refugee camps in neighboring Kenya.

The access of international aid organizations to areas of southern Somalia has been hampered by militants of the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which controls much of the region. Denying there is a famine, the Islamist militants have regularly threatened relief groups.