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African Union Set to Raise Funds For Food Relief

  • Peter Clottey

Somali children from southern Somalia, receive cooked food in Mogadishu, Somalia, Monday, Aug 15, 2011

Somali children from southern Somalia, receive cooked food in Mogadishu, Somalia, Monday, Aug 15, 2011

An spokesman for the African Union says final preparations are being made for the scheduled August 25 “pledge conference” in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Organized by the continental body, the meeting aims to raise funds to help relief efforts in hunger-stricken East Africa, which has created hundreds of thousands refugees and internally displaced.

El-Ghassim Wane said the A.U. has been providing support delivering food and protecting relief workers.

“[Peacekeepers] on the ground from AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] have been providing limited humanitarian support to the affected population in Mogadishu,” said Wane. “We felt there is need to mobilize the entire continent of Africa …and to offer support to the Somali people in the time of need.”

The A.U. spokesman said AMISOM will continue to provide humanitarian aid to Somalis. Initially, they protected supply lines from attacks by the militant group, al-Shabab. The insurgents, however, recently abandoned the city, greatly minimizing the security threat.

He also said the AU is encouraged by the contribution of member states towards combating the ongoing drought and famine.

“Already, some countries have taken steps to provide support,” said Wane. “Neighboring countries like Kenya and Ethiopia are opening their doors for Somali refugees seeking help. Other countries have [pledged] financial and logistical support.”

He also expressed hope the African Union will “galvanize African countries and ensure that we respond with adequate resources and commitment to the needs of the Somali people.”

Wane acknowledged the challenges facing AU peacekeepers in Somalia, who battle almost daily with Islamic insurgents.

“We have stepped up… needed protection to humanitarian organizations to help with access to the affected population. But we understand that we need to do more.”

The Somali Transitional Federal Government and aid groups have called for increased security to help protect relief workers in the country.

Analysts underscore the need to strengthen AMISOM in an effort to boost security in the capital.

Wane said the African Union is urging member countries to provide additional peacekeepers.

“We are short of 3,000 troops, but we are working very hard to reach the authorized strength of the mission [1,2000 troops]. Uganda and Burundi have pledged additional troops,” said Wane. “Djibouti has also pledged a battalion, Sierra Leone has indicated its willingness additional troops and we are also in touch with other African countries, so we are hopeful that in the not so distant future we will reach the authorized strength.”