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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Doubts over aid convoy protection force

August 14, 2011
Concern's Overseas Director Paul O'Brien has expressed doubt that a special force announced yesterday to protect aid convoys would be effective outside the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Somalia's prime minister Dr Abdiweli Mohamed Ali announced the creation of the force, comprising 300 trained men, helped by African Union peacekeepers, to protect convoys delivering aid to people in the drought and famine-hit Horn of Africa.

The United Nations says around 12 million people are affected by drought in the region, and aid is only reaching 20% of the Somalis who need it.

Islamist rebels mostly retreated from the capital last weekend but the threat of guerrilla-style attacks such as suicide bombings remains despite their battlefield defeat.

The government and a 9,000-strong African peacekeeping force admit they do not control all of the capital even after the rebel withdrawal, placing thousands of Somali refugees who are streaming into Mogadishu searching for food in danger.

The pullout by the al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab insurgents has raised hopes humanitarian groups will be able to step up aid deliveries after years of obstruction by the militants.

A cholera epidemic is spreading in the country, especially among people driven to the capital by a lack of food and water.

About 3.6 million people in Somalia are at risk of starvation.

Some 12.4 million people in the Horn of Africa - including Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti - are affected by the worst drought in decades, according to the United Nations.

Tens of thousands of people have already died.


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