UN Refugees Airlifts Aid Into Somali Capital

Posted August 8th, 2011 at 10:00 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The United Nations refugee agency has airlifted aid into Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, for the first time in five years.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the first emergency aid flight arrived on Monday, just two days after the Islamist militant group al-Shabab abruptly withdrew from the capital.

The group has banned most foreign aid groups from operating in areas under its control, including most of the five areas declared famine zones by the United Nations.

The first UNHCR cargo plane Monday carried more than 31-metric tons of shelter material and other aid. The next flight is set to arrive on Thursday and a third is scheduled to arrive next week.

The U.N. says the country's severe drought and famine have prompted about 100,000 Somalis to flee to the capital in search of life-saving aid. That brings the number of displaced people in Mogadishu to nearly half a million .

Government forces backed by African Union troops continued to patrol the streets of Mogadishu on Monday.

Pockets of al-Shabab insurgents remained in the capital and they battled pro-government forces on Sunday. At least one person was killed in the fighting.

The UNHCR says it is taking great care in distributing the supplies because the security situation is still very dangerous.

The organization has been delivering relief supplies to Mogadishu by sea and land during the past five years. But the group says it decided to fly in aid because of how quickly the humanitarian situation is deteriorating.

The United Nations says thousands of Somalis have died of starvation, many of them in an effort to reach refugee camps in Mogadishu. Others have sought refuge in crowded camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

The U.N. estimates that more than three million Somalis are in need of immediate assistance, along with millions more across the Horn of Africa.