An official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says regional leaders have agreed to make financial contributions towards combating the drought and famine in East Africa.
Sonny Ugoh, communications director of the sub-regional body, says ECOWAS has expressed concern about the food shortage crisis and will continue to help provide assistance to those affected.
“The chairman of authority has indicated that [President] Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and indeed ECOWAS are going to make a contribution during the donor conference for Somalia, scheduled for 25th [August] in Addis Ababa [Ethiopia],” said Ugoh.
He said the contribution demonstrates ECOWAS’ solidarity towards helping Africans affected by the ongoing drought and famine.
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 the African Union Peacekeeping force, despite the recent withdrawal of insurgent group al-Shabab from Mogadishu.
Critics say the sub-regional bloc should have already contributed security personnel to help relief efforts in Somalia, noting the track record of West African peacekeeping operations around the world.
Ugoh said ECOWAS is willing to consider assisting with security in the famine stricken areas.
“The best thing to do is for that [security] request to the proper authority of ECOWAS who will weigh it and take a decision on how to respond if indeed it’s necessary to respond,” said Ugoh.
He said the sub-regional bloc will also contribute food supplies towards combating the famine.
“What is important is what the chairman of the [ECOWAS] authority has indicated that we will do and that is to support them with food and finance so that they can address the desperate situation that we have in the Horn of Africa,” said Ugoh.
So far, hundreds of thousands of desperate Somalis have fled to camps in Mogadishu or neighboring countries in search of food and water.
U.N. and international aid agencies have increased the flow of aid to Somalia since al-Shabab withdrew its fighters from Mogadishu August 6. The insurgents ban most aid groups from territory they control in southern and central Somalia.