UN aid convoy looted near Mogadishu

UN aid convoy looted near Mogadishu

Three United Nations trucks carrying food aid to the victims of Somalia's drought were looted by gunmen near Mogadishu on Friday, DPA reported.

According to unconfirmed reports, a number of people were killed at the Badbaado camp, on the outskirts of the Somali capital, when the attackers - whose identities remain unclear - made off with the food.

"This incident highlights the challenges humanitarian aid agencies face in trying to deliver assistance in this difficult environment," said Susannah Nicol of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP).

She said WFP was still investigating the reports of casualties.

Over 100,000 displaced Somalis have flocked to the capital in recent months, largely owing to the natural disaster striking the country, which comes atop 20 years of conflict. They arrive seeking food, water, shelter and medical treatment.

It was unclear how the looting of the aid convoy would affect future humanitarian relief efforts in Somalia, already considered one of the most dangerous places in the world. The UN had been planning more airlifts of vital supplies for next week.

The latest violent incident in the war-torn capital came as the UN warned that nearly half of the Somali children fleeing the war and drought in their country arrive at refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya suffering from malnutrition.

"Reports of children dying along the way from Somalia or just as they arrive at the camps are disturbingly common," said the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The overall number of Somalis seeking help in Kenya was on the rise, with 1,500 new refugees arriving daily, compared to some 1,300 a day last month.

The Dadaab camp in Kenya, one of the largest refugee encampments in the world, now houses more than 400,000 people, according to the UN, though it was built for just 90,000.

Kenya itself was facing a crisis, with the local media reporting about more mass crop failures that are sending tens of thousands of families to the brink of hunger. At least a dozen people reportedly died in the north from starvation.

The United States aid agency, USAID, believes 29,000 children under 5 years of age have died in the last three months in southern Somalia, according to recent testimony before Congress.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday made a rare direct appeal to the Islamist al-Shabaab militia in Somalia to give full and free access to relief workers trying to aid civilians hit by the worst African food crisis in decades.

The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab bans most aid agencies from operating in the southern and central areas of the country it controls. The people fleeing the regions say those left behind are desperately in need of relief supplies.

Also impeding aid efforts was a "critical shortage of funds," according to the UN Refugee Agency, which said it was lacking about half of the money it needed to help refugees.

The UN has appealed for 2.4 billion dollars for relief work, with over 12.5 million people affected by the drought in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. Five regions of Somalia, including areas around the capital Mogadishu, are officially seeing famine conditions.

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