|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives | Search|
Issue 495 -- 23rd - 29th July 2011
US To Allow Aid Shipments To Islamist-Held Somalia 'If Security Is Guaranteed'
The United States has eased restrictions on funding food appeals for famine-hit Somalia, as warnings grew of a hidden hunger crisis in Eritrea.
Nairobi, Kenya July 23, 2011 – Supplies bought with American money would be allowed to be given to those worst-affected by the crisis if pro-al-Qaeda insurgents guaranteed unhindered access, the head of USAID said.
Al-Shabaab, Somalia's Islamist rebels, promised an amnesty last week which prompted calls from aid workers for a lifting of the ban on US aid to southern Somalia.
"We are determined to test that pledge," Raj Shah, the USAID administrator, told reporters in Nairobi.
"We would like to see that access expand dramatically and rapidly. We are trying to make sure our humanitarian commitments reach those most vulnerable people." Â Anti-terror rules brought in after September 11 bar US funding for aid projects if there is any risk they could fall into the hands of a listed terror organisation, including al-Shabaab.
The Islamists last year ordered all international agencies to leave their territory, which now covers almost all of southern Somalia, including two regions the UN on Wednesday declared were now in a state of famine.
Several aid groups are now investigating returning to southern Somalia.
The rebels' hostility is seen as the main block to being able effectively to deliver aid to the 2.8 million Somalis living in al-Shabaab areas.
"There are opportunities to work in select areas where there aren't the impediments created by tolls, by taxing, by threats of insecurity, and by kidnapping," said Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator at USAID.
"So where we as the international community are able to provide assistance and ensure that it's reaching those who are desperately in need, we are fully prepared to do so." Â Most of the aid would likely be channelled through the UN's World Food Programme, which itself ceased operations in most of southern Somalia last year.
Greg Barrow, WFP's spokesman at its headquarters in Rome, said airlifting supplies into Islamist-held areas was "one of a number of options" being considered.
"We have to work through partners in a situation where we understand there will be rigorous monitoring to ensure the assistance reaches those who need it," he added.
The partial climb-down in US refusal to fund aid supplies came as another senior US official warned that there could be an unseen hunger crisis in Eritrea, where no aid agencies operate.
The tiny nation borders Ethiopia and Djibouti, where emergencies have been declared among groups living along the countries' shared frontiers.
"There may be many more in need of assistance in Eritrea, where a repressive regime fails to provide data on the humanitarian needs of its own people," said Johnnie Carson, Hillary Clinton's State Department deputy in charge of African affairs.
A spokesman for the Eritrean government could not be reached. Aid workers in Nairobi said that there was a "black hole" in data from Eritrea.
"You have to assume that if it's bleak one side of the border, it's bleak on the other too," one said.
"The fact is, we just don't know."
Source: The Telegraph