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FAO calls for more Somalian aid

FAO calls for more Somalian aid
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Agriculture ministers from the 191 members of the U.N.‘s Food and Agriculture Organisation have gathered in Rome.

This is the second emergency meeting hosted by the UN in less than a month to take action in support of the drought-hit horn of Africa.

According to the FAO, the region urgently needs an additional 103 million dollars to rebuild agriculture and fight famine.

At risk are about 3.6 million people in Somalia and 12 million across the Horn of Africa, including in Ethiopia and Kenya, the UN says.

In a separate initiative, the Organization of Islamic Conference has pledged 350 million dollars of humanitarian aid to provide urgently needed food, health, shelter, water and sanitation aid. Britain has also increased its donation by 48 million dollars while the United States recently said it would give an additional 105 million.

However, raising funds is not enough to help the Somalis. The security problems in the country make delivery of aid harder.

Somalia has been torn by civil war since 1991 and the government has little control over the country.

The al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab made what it called a strategic withdrawal from the capital, Mogadishu, early this month. But government forces and African peacekepers still struggle with rebel resistance and looting.

Early this week the Associated Press news agency reported sacks of grain, peanut butter snacks and other food staples intended for famine victims were being stolen and sold in the markets. It said 50 percent of all aid could be stolen, citing an unnamed official.

The UN says it has been investigating food theft in Somalia for two months. The UN’s foreign personnel carries out the aid delivery through local contractors and barely leave their base due to security problems.

Theft of aid is accepted to be very common according to local people. AP found eight sites where thousands of sacks of food aid were sold in bulk with UN stamps on them from the governments of the US, Japan and Kuwait.

The WFP says the scale of alleged theft is implausible and suggested the diversion of food aid amounts to only 1% of the stocks the organisation is bringing into Mogadishu.

Five areas of Somalia are officially in a state of famine, and the rest of southern Somalia could follow within the next four to six weeks, says the UN. This has driven hundreds of thousands of people to refugee camps and the main cities to search for food.

Lack of control over the country is putting the lives of these people in danger and also hinders the delivery of humanitarian aid to them.

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government declared a state of emergency last weekend, and the prime minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali called on the international community to create a new force to protect food aid convoys and camps.