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UN airlifts supplies to Somalia

By Li Lianxing | China Daily | Updated: 2011-08-10 07:57

 UN airlifts supplies to Somalia

A handout picture, released on Monday, shows a Somali woman holding her malnourished child at the Banadir Hospital in southern Mogadishu. IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation / Handout Via Reuters

BEIJING - A chartered cargo plane of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) landed in Mogadishu on Tuesday, carrying more than 31 tons of material for shelters and other relief items from the agency's emergency stocks in Dubai, according to UN's website.

This is the first of three consignments of emergency relief supplies to the famine-ravaged region, the first time the agency has airlifted aid to the capital of Somalia in five years, according to the report.

The second flight is due to reach Mogadishu on Thursday and the third one next week.

Mogadishu is one of five areas of southern Somalia that the UN has declared famine-stricken.

"This airlift of emergency assistance items will allow us to continue delivering aid to those displaced by drought and famine," Bruno Geddo, the UNHCR's representative in Somalia, was quoted as saying.

"However, we need funding support to enable us to replenish our emergency stocks, for they are being rapidly depleted as we deliver much-needed aid across southern Somalia," he added.

Although some countries have shown the will to help and made donations, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on its website that there is still a "long way ahead" in coping with the famine. It was planning to feed more than 11.5 million people across the Horn of Africa.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it has asked for $161 million to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of hungry farmers and had received or has commitments for around $57 million.

In the past month, China expressed deep concern over the widespread famine caused by drought in the Horn of Africa, and it decided to provide a total of 90 million yuan ($14 million) worth of emergency food assistance to countries in the area.

The Ministry of Commerce announced in late July it will send grain aid to Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, without naming specific amounts.

Since the 2006 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, agricultural cooperation to alleviate food shortages in Africa has been enormously strengthened by the two countries.

As of 2010, hundreds of Chinese agricultural officials and experts had been sent to more than 33 African countries, including Ethiopia, to help develop sustainable agriculture, and African agricultural experts often visit China for training and experience.

The African Union has declared Aug 15 "One African Voice Call Day" to search for further humanitarian assistance from its "member states, the African private sector, the international community, the Diaspora and all well meaning good persons of good will", according to a written statement.

A conference for pledging money and aid will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the AU's headquarters, on Aug 25.

"The biggest challenge at this stage is whether the local government could efficiently cooperate with various donors and international organizations to send needed items to refugees' hands," said Pang Zhongying, professor of international relations at Renmin University of China.

He said climate change and weak government management, combined with long-lasting armed conflicts, resulting from colonialism, have made the crisis in the region worse.

China Daily

(China Daily 08/10/2011 page12)

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