Somalia famine: PM Ali sets up aid protection force

  • 13 August 2011
  • From the section Africa
Valerie Amos meets drought-affected Somalis in Mogadishu, 13 August 2011
UN envoy Valerie Amos was visibly moved as she met drought-affected Somalis

Somalia's prime minister has announced the creation of a special force to protect convoys delivering aid to people affected by drought and famine.

Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said the force would comprise 300 trained men, helped by African peacekeepers who are providing security in Mogadishu.

He was speaking after talks with UN emergency relief co-ordinator, Valerie Amos, in the Somali capital.

Some 12 million people are affected by drought in the region, the UN says.

Mr Ali said the force would have two main jobs.

"Number one is to secure the convoys and to protect food aid, and also to protect the camps when food is distributed," he said.

"Second is to stabilise the city and to fight banditry and looting and any sort of untidiness."

Mr Mohamed Ali's use of the word "untidiness" was something of an understatement: Mogadishu was until a few days ago divided in two, with the Islamist insurgent group, al-Shabab, occupying several districts.

It has now withdrawn from most parts of the city, but has vowed to keep on fighting the transitional government.

'Scaling up operations'

Security has improved in Mogadishu, although pockets of resistance remain.

The African Union has 9,000 peacekeepers in the city protecting the weak interim government.

After their meeting, Baroness Amos said the improvement in security meant the UN could intensify its relief efforts in the region.

"We are scaling up our operations in Mogadishu," she said.

"UNHCR [UN High Commission for Refugees], for example, has had three flights come in this week.

"Unicef [UN Children's Fund] has had flights come in. The World Food Programme has had flights come in."

But the aid operation in Somalia still faces huge challenges.

Most of the famine-affected areas are still controlled by al-Shabab, which has often been reluctant to cooperate with international agencies.

The UN said earlier this week that aid was only reaching 20% of the Somalis who need it.

Map of food shortages in Somalia

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