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Militants lift aid ban to help Somalia drought victims

The powerful Islamist group Al-Shabab had previously placed a ban on aid from non-Muslim agencies to Somalia.

A woman with her malnourished child, in one of the internally displaced camps, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday, July 5, 2011, after fleeing their homes, due to lack of water and food.
A woman with her malnourished child, in one of the internally displaced camps, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday, July 5, 2011, after fleeing their homes, due to lack of water and food.
Image: Mohamed Sheikh Nor/AP/Press Association Images

SOMALIA’S MILITANT ISLAMIST group Al-Shabab has lifted a ban on foreign aid in order to help the victims of the worst drought to hit the country in six decades.

The group imposed a ban on foreign aid agencies in 2009, accusing them of being anti-Muslim, the BBC reports. It has now revised this rule, saying that non-Muslim charities can donate aid providing they have “no hidden agenda”. Al-Shabab rules over large areas of Somalia.

Speaking from the country’s capital Mogadishu today, group spokesman Sheikh Ali Mahamud Rage Al-Shabab said: “Al-Shabab movement declares today that any aid agency could operate in Somalia whether it’s a Muslim or Non-Muslim agency if they do not hide some special purposes”, reports Somali news website Raxanreeb Online.

Countries in the Horn of Africa have been plunged into a humanitarian crisis following the worst droughts in 60 years, with an estimated 12 million people being affected so far this year. The crisis has been heightened in Somalia because of  heavy fighting – the country been experiencing the throes of extreme violence for more than 20 years since the fall of its last government in 1991.

Yesterday, the United Nations said that many Somali children are arriving at refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia in such weak shape that they are dying within 24 hours despite emergency care and feeding.

A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency says an unknown number of children under the age of five are dying from hunger and exhaustion as their families flee violence compounded by drought in Somalia.

Melissa Fleming said Tuesday that more than 135,000 Somalis have fled so far this year — including 54,000 in June, three times as many as in May.

She told reporters in Geneva that many of those are children who don’t survive the exhausting journey, or who die even after they reach the camps because they arrive so hungry and frail.

Donations to Trócaire can be made through its website, www.trocaire.org, or by phoning 1850 408 408 (RoI) or 0800 912 1200 (NI). Donations to Oxfam Ireland can be made through www.oxfamireland.org or by calling 1850 30 40 55 (RoI) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (NI). The Medecins sans Frontieres Somalia appeal page is at www.msf.ie/somalia-appeal.

Additional reporting by the AP

Read more: Aid agencies seek urgent help to counter Africa’s worst drought in decades >

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