Red Cross ramps up Somalia aid efforts

The international Red Cross said on Wednesday it plans to distribute food and relief aid to half-a-million Somalis in the coming weeks amid warnings the country faces its worst crisis for a decade.

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis face life-threatening food and water shortages due to escalating armed conflict and a recent severe drought in central Somalia, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement.

In addition, inflation of food and fuel prices is further aggravating the situation.

“We are witnessing the worst tragedy of the past decade in Somalia,” said Pascal Hundt, head of the ICRC’s delegation for Somalia.

“Amidst the ongoing armed conflict and other violence, finding water and food for the family is a daily challenge. Shelter and medical attention are also increasingly difficult to obtain,” he added.

The ICRC said it is appealing for funds to finance a response, including the distribution of about four months’ worth of food rations to 435 000 people in the coming weeks.

About 150 000 people will also receive essential household items such as blankets, shelter materials and kitchen sets.

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have been displaced by armed conflict that is engulfing many cities in the centre and south of the country.

The clashes between the Ethiopia-backed Somali forces and Islamist fighters have raged over the past year and killed at least 6 000 civilians, according to rights groups and aid agencies.

The capital, Mogadishu, in particular, has seen intense fighting.

Many of the people displaced by the violence are living in the open or in makeshift camps, said the ICRC.

In central Somalia, which has been hit by a severe drought for two years, more people are dependant on humanitarian aid for survival.

Neighbouring Ethiopia is also badly affected by drought.—AFP

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