- (Photo: REUTERS/Antony Njuguna)
Tens of thousands are feared to have died in south Somalia due to famine, in what is becoming the worst atrocity the country has seen in over half a decade.
"This desperate situation requires urgent action to save lives…it's likely that conditions will deteriorate further in six months," said Mark Bowden, the U.N.'s top official of humanitarian aid in Somalia.
The Horn of Africa has been suffering a devastating drought over recent months, and problems have been compounded by war and spiraling food prices.
The al-Shabab militia, an Islamic terrorist group linked to Al-Qaida, has continued disrupting the distribution of humanitarian aid in the region, and has done since 2008. The militants have been commandeering relief supplies to sell to civilians, who are too poverty stricken to pay the price for goods.
The United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) has expressed its desire to launch a war on famine if the rebels are prepared to support its efforts by guaranteeing a safe passage and free access to aid. The WFP has lost fourteen workers at the hands of al-Shabab militants over recent years.
"We are absolutely fully committed to going where the hungry are," WFP head, Josette Sheeran told reporters.
U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced this week that the U.S. will be providing $28 million more to the already $431 million contributed to Somali relief efforts earlier in the year.
"The reason the aid has not gone in sufficient quantities into south and central Somalia is because al-Shabab has prevented those capable of delivering large quantities of aid from having access-and when they have had access they've taxed them, harassed them, killed them, kidnapped them," Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. told reporters.
Some 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing starvation largely due to the lengthy drought described as the region's worst in decades.