- (Photo: Reuters / Thomas Mukoya)
Although news reports have been focusing on terrorist group Al-Shabab as the primary reason why desperately needed food aid has not reached the millions of people on the brink of starvation in Somalia, new reports are surfacing that delays in food aid and funds are equally responsible for hampering relief efforts.
Both the international community and international aid agencies have been slow in their response to the famine crisis, commentators are saying.
There are several reasons for the lag in response including fears of aid agencies that they will be prosecuted by the United States for paying "taxes" or tolls to Al-Shabab.
Other realities are the fact that delivering response to the high magnitude problem requires time and money, neither of which are readily available.
A spokeswoman for the ICRC said, "The limits on our action are more on the side of logistics than access. To purchase 3,000 tones of food and get it there is a long process."
Meanwhile, UNICEF has also expressed the difficulties it is facing in securing funding for the famine and adding that time restrictions also play a role as it took 20 days for the organization to source blended produces mixed with soy to feed malnourished people.
The main famine zones in Somalia are located in the southern part of the country and are controlled by Al-Shabab.
In early July, the group lifted bans on aid agencies that it considered to be "Western or Christian" however, those bans have been put back into place making it difficult for several aid organizations, including the World Food Program, to reach the most vulnerable people in the country.
However, some agencies have been able to access the Al-Shabab controlled zones such as Islamic Relief and the International Committee for the Red Cross.
Tony Burns of the Somalia-based aid agency Saacid said, "Al-Shabab is an issue in responding to the famine, but for us it's more about finding the resources so that we can help people."
Burns continued that the severity of the drought was known to the international community prior to the famine. He argues that the lack of food stockpiling in Somalia reflects poorly on the international community and aid agencies in their lack of resolve to stop the crisis, which has already killed 29,000 children according to U.S. estimates. The famine has also left more than 3 million people in the country desperate for help.