East Africa Summit: Drought Aid Failing, Security Risk Rising

Posted September 9th, 2011 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Desperate famine victims in Somalia are not getting the food and relief supplies they need, and some African leaders say that failure could soon risk the region's security.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki told delegates at a United Nations' summit in Nairobi Friday that famine victims continue to pour into relief camps in his country. And he warned smugglers have started using the massive, uncontrolled movement as a cover for transporting small arms and other light weaponry.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said another problem is the failure to get relief supplies to Somalia's worst famine-stricken areas, including areas not under the control of Islamist militants like al-Shabab.

Mr. Zenawi called on the international community to help get aid to those areas by creating “corridors of humanitarian assistance,” saying it would help reduce the flow of refugees.

East African heads of state, in Nairobi for the two-day summit, issued a declaration noting both the immediate and long-term effects of the drought and famine. It calls for the mandate of the African Union Mission in Somalia to be transformed from “peacekeeping to peace enforcement.” It also calls for U.N. peacekeeping troops to help stabilize Somalia.

AMISOM and the TFG recently drove the al-Qaida linked militant group al-Shabab out of the capital, Mogadishu, but some areas of the country remain under militant control.

The Horn of Africa is struggling with a severe drought that has left more than 13 million people in need of food aid.

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled their homes in search of food and water, migrating to refugee camps in the Mogadishu area or in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

The U.N. refugee agency Friday said more than 1,200 Somalis are crossing into Kenya alone on a daily basis.

Experts have warned that despite international relief efforts, famine is likely to spread to other parts of Somalia over the next few months.

Separately Friday, the U.N.'s World Food Program said it is boosting its efforts in an attempt to provide food assistance to an additional 900,000 Somalis.

The WFP is trying to reach a total of almost 10 million drought victims across the Horn of Africa. The agency says its has received $385 million in contributions but warns it will need another $215 million over the next six months.