· Rebels remove obstacles to humanitarian assistance, after a year and a half ·
For the first time in more than a year and a half, the United Nations is preparing to distribute aid to populations in areas of Somalia controlled by the radical Islamic militia, al Shabaab, which is leading the insurrection against the internationally recognized government of Sharif Ahmed. In the next few days, once al Shabaab removes the ban on the presence of non-Islamic international personnel in the area, UNICEF – the UN agency for infancy – will begin to provide assistance. Recently the World Food Program (WFP) of the UN said that the leaders of al Shabaab had requested assistance in the imminent emergency caused by famine. WFP, like other UN agencies, was forced to leave Somali territory controlled by the insurgents at the beginning of 2010, after numerous threats and the imposition of heavy restrictions on it workers.
Rozanne Chorlton, the UNICEF representative for Somalia, explained that the assistance provided by her organization could open the way for a return of other UN agencies and humanitarian organizations in the immediate future. UNICEF is preparing to send food and medicine for malnourished infants in the central city of Baidoa, two-hundred kilometers north west of Mogadishu.
At the moment the question is still open as to whether or not humanitarian assistance can return to the South - in particular to the crucial port of Chisimaio, the second largest in the country and one of the key strategic areas under control of al Shabaab. Control and distribution of international aid – around which a sort of parallel economy has developed in Somalia – has always been one of the cornerstones of the insurgents efforts to win the consensus of the people.
The drought which is devastating the Horn of Africa – the worst in sixty years – threatens the survival of around 12 million people. The situation in Somalia is compounded by civil war, which has continued in various forms, for over twenty years
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