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Africa

Local militia forces Red Cross to halt Somalia food aid

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-01-12

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had suspended food aid to 1.1 million people in southern and central Somalia on Thursday after local militia blocked deliveries in certain parts of the famine-hit country.

AFP - The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it had suspended food aid to 1.1 million people in war-torn southern and central Somalia due to obstruction by local militia.

"The suspension will continue until we receive assurances from the authorities controlling those areas that distributions can take place unimpeded and reach all those in need, as previously agreed," said Patrick Vial, the head of the ICRC delegation for Somalia.

The ICRC is one of the largest providers of emergency aid in Somalia, and one of the very few that has been operating in areas controlled by the hardline Islamist Shebab insurgents, who have imposed draconian restrictions on several aid agencies.

However, since mid-December "local authorities in central and southern Somalia have blocked the delivery of food intended for 240,000 people in the Middle Shabelle and Galgadud regions," ICRC said.

The ICRC did not specifically name who was blocking their deliveries of food for "1.1 million people in urgent need" but Middle Shabelle -- declared a famine zone by the United Nations -- is controlled by the Al-Qaeda linked Shebab.

Galgadud, the other area where deliveries are blocked, is divided between rival forces, including the Shebab and the pro-government Alhlu Sunna Wal Jama militia.

The United Nations says Somalia is the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and has declared three areas to be in famine, warning that nearly 250,000 people face starvation.

"We are actively seeking the cooperation of the local authorities to restore conditions that will allow the resumption of the suspended activities as soon as possible," said Vial.

Shebab fighters control much of central and southern Somalia but are facing growing encirclement from government forces and regional armies, including Kenyan troops in the far south and Ethiopian forces in the west.

Date created : 2012-01-12

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