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A child pictured at a refugee camp in Kenya last week.
A child pictured at a refugee camp in Kenya last week.
Image: Rebecca Blackwell/AP/Press Association Images

'It is much worse than people realise': Mary Robinson visits Somalia

Such is the extent of the famine in parts of Somalia the US is to aid parts of the country controlled by Al-Shabab.
Jul 21st 2011, 9:41 AM 1,290 6

FORMER IRISH PRESIDENT and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has visited Somalia for the first time in nearly 20 years and has expressed serious concern about the crisis in East Africa which is affecting some 10 million people.

The United Nations officially declared a famine in parts of southern Somalia yesterday for the first time in 19 years amid a growing crisis caused by the worst drought in 60 years.

Aid organisations including Trócaire, Oxfam and Concern whom with Robinson is travelling are desperately trying to help those most in need with refugees fleeing parts of Somalia into overcrowded camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The crisis is complicated by the presence of Islamist group Al-Shabab who have been linked to the terrorist group Al Qaeda. The group controls areas in Somalia and until recently was not allowing aid organisations in to those areas.

The Irish Independent reports Robinson as saying: “This is an extraordinarily serious crisis and it is much worse than people realise.”

Robinson first drew attention to the plight of Somalia when she visited the region in 1992 as president of Ireland. It is a visit that has left a long-lasting impact on her.

“I have never been able to get Somalia out of my system since then. I look around today and I see this yet again . . . It is devastating that so little has changed for the better,” the Irish Times quotes her as saying.

Such is the urgency of the situation the US is reported on BBC News to be prepared to send aid to famine-hit areas controlled by Al-Shabab despite the fact it classes the group as a terrorist organisation.

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Shocking images from the region have emerged in recent days and weeks. Here is a selection:

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Hugh O'Connell

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