Mogadishu: The UN World Food Programme is to start airlifting food to Somalia, WFP head Josette Sheeran has said at crisis talks on East Africa’s drought. This will be the first airlift of food aid since the UN declared a famine in two areas of Somalia last week. Somali Foreign Minister Mohamed Ibrahim warned at the emergency meeting in Rome that more than 3.5 million people “may starve to death” in his country.
Islamists, who control most of Somalia, have banned the WFP from their areas.
Al-Shabab, which has ties to al-Qaeda, has accused the groups it has banned from its territories of being political.
Ms Sheeran said aid would be airlifted to the capital, Mogadishu, where the weak interim government – backed by an African Union peace force – controls only parts of the city.
The aid will come from Kenya, where it was sent from France on Monday.
The airlift will carry 14 tonnes of plumpy’nut, a peanut-based paste high in protein and energy primarily targeted at malnourished children.
Barring unforeseen hitches, similar flights are also due to take aid into the Ethiopian town of Dolo Ado, from where it can be moved across the border into Jubaland, a sliver of land held by Somalia’s pro-government forces just west of famine-hit Bakool.
Tens of thousands of Somalis have been fleeing al-Shabab areas and heading to Mogadishu and neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia in search of food.
The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that some 70,000 people had arrived in Mogadishu and settlements around the city in search of food and water in the past month.