NAIROBI/ROME: The International Committee of the Red Cross said Sunday it had distributed 400 tons of food aid in rebel-controlled southern Somalia, which has been hit by a devastating drought.
“The ICRC on Saturday distributed 400 tons of food aid in Gedo province for 4,000 families or about 24,000 people,” ICRC spokesman Yves Van Loo told AFP in Nairobi.
“The distribution look place in the Bardera district and passed without incident, with the knowledge of the authorities and the recipients,” he added.
It is the first ICRC-led food drop directly to locals in zones under the control of Al-Shabaab insurgents since 2009, the spokesman added.
Each family was due to get about 100 kilograms of food, including 20 liters of oil, more than 20 kilos of rice, and beans. Further food distributions of the same kind will take place in the coming days, the spokesman said.
The Al-Qaeda-inspired Al-Shabaab group has banned humanitarian aid agencies like the World Food Program from working in the region, although the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been able to operate several small programs to help farmers through local partners.
With the world scrambling to rescue 12 million people on the brink of starvation in the Horn of Africa, U.N. emergency official Cristina Amaral Sunday said the fact that children are dying of hunger is “immoral.”
The head of emergency operations in Africa for the FAO, Amaral has been warning about the crisis facing the drought-stricken region since November, after the rainy season failed.
She said it was not enough for donor countries to stump up some cash for immediate food aid – there needs to be long-term investment to help farmers resist droughts and international mediation to bring peace to war-torn Somalia.
“When we have a declaration of famine in the 21st century, we should consider this immoral,” Amaral told AFP in an interview as she prepared for emergency talks at FAO in Rome Monday aimed at coordinating the aid effort.
“We hope that the political negotiation will evolve and that the humanitarian situation prevailing will make the clans in Somalia negotiate in a way that will free the access to people in need,” she said.
Amaral added that the international community is only now seeing the results of years of under-investment in solutions to the chronic drought problems of the region. Projects to improve the management of pastures by herders, to improve animal health and to introduce more resilient crops would go a long way, she said.
“We know what to do but the funding only works when you have the media attention and that’s the problem,” Amaral said. “War has become a normality there. You only hear about Somalia when there are pirates.”