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African Union Steps Up Aid for Somalis Affected by Drought

Thousands of people have arrived in Mogadishu over the past two weeks seeking assistance and the number is increasing by the day, due to lack of water and food. The drought in the Horn of Africa has sparked a severe food crisis and high malnutrition rates

The African Union (AU) is stepping up security to ensure that “much-needed” humanitarian assistance gets to Somalis hit by drought and violence.

“We are active on the ground through the AU mission in Somalia [AMISOM],” said AU spokesman El-Ghassim Wane.

“We are securing both the seaport and the airport, thus making it possible to bring in the much-needed humanitarian supplies. We are also providing limited humanitarian assistance in terms of healthcare and provision of water to local communities.”

Wane said former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings, the AU’s special envoy, will soon go to Somalia to assess the situation. He will present his recommendations to the AU Commission.

The AU is also working closely with other international humanitarian relief organizations.

“Our mission on the ground,” said Wane, “has been requested by the chairperson of the commission to provide security for humanitarian workers to facilitate the daily humanitarian assistance and access by aid workers.”

He said the continental body has called on its member countries, as well as the rest of the international community, to help address the drought.

“The AU has requested former president Jerry Rawlings to intensify his efforts aimed at mobilizing further assistance from within the continent,” said Wane. “Mr. Rawlings is expected to travel to Somalia [soon]…to see how best the AU could be of help to the Somali people at this very difficult time.”

Wane said the AU will continue to help with the “difficult drought situation,” despite limited resources.

Humanitarian agencies estimate that about 2.85 million Somalis need assistance.

Compounding the problem, say some Somalis, is the conflict between the government forces, backed by AMISOM, and Islamic insurgent groups, including al-Shabab.

The Islamic militant group al-Shabab has changed its mind about international relief groups. It now says it will welcome all aid agencies, including non-Muslims, to provide food and other supplies to Somalis living in areas under its control.