First UN relief airlift to Mogadishu for five years

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First UN relief airlift to Mogadishu for five years

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The United Nations’ refugee agency has airlifted supplies into the Somali capital for the first time in five years, to help tackle the famine that has hit the country already torn apart by war.

The flight from Dubai arrived in Mogadishu with 31 tonnes of emergency aid after Islamist rebels withdrew from the city at the weekend.

Since then thousands of refugees have streamed into the capital searching for food.

The UN says more than three and a half million people are at risk of starvation in Somalia, 12 million across the Horn of Africa region.

“We are seeing now that the proportion of malnourished children who are severely malnourished is already at 50 percent,” said UNICEF Somali representative Rozanne Chorlton. “This is an extremely worrying proportion because normally that would be around five or 10 percent, so it means that 50 percent of malnourished children are at nine times greater risk of death than children who are healthy.”

Most of the displaced arriving in Mogadishu have no proper shelter and children are too weak to eat.

The rebels’ withdrawal has given relief agencies some breathing space, but elsewhere at least two million still cannot be reached, according to the UN World Food Programme.

Militants from al-Shabaab imposed a food aid ban in 2010 and have regularly threatened relief groups.