Germany considers extra aid for East Africa amid famine | World| Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 22.07.2011
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Germany considers extra aid for East Africa amid famine

As the UN delivers its warning of the "acute emergency" in Somalia, the German government said it will consider extra aid for the famine-stricken people of East Africa. Germany has already pledged 14 million euros.

Somali people waiting in line for food

Some 12 million people are battling hunger in the region

Germany's development minister said on Friday that the federal government is considering sending more money to help Somalia deal with its mounting hunger crisis, amid the worst famine to hit the Horn of Africa in over two decades.

"The international community is taking all measures to overcome this catastrophe," Dirk Niebel said in an interview published in the daily Saarbrücker Zeitung. "The government is looking into what funds Germany can contribute."

Berlin has already pledged 14 million euros to East Africa, with Niebel saying that his ministry was in "close contact" with the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) that coordinates international aid efforts.

On Thursday the UN stressed the "acute urgency" of the situation in the Horn of Africa, warning that 3.7 million people are at risk of starvation.

The UN said that, of the $1.6 billion (2.3 billion euros) needed, just over half - $880 million - had already been pledged.

Fleeing the famine

Somali refugees at the Dadaab camp in Kenya

Malnourished refugees trek for days to reach the Dadaab camp

As the drought takes hold in the Horn of Africa, some 78,000 Somali refugees are thought have crossed into neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia over the last two months.

The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya warned on Thursday that its resources were are breaking point.

According to the UN refugee agency, 1,300 Somalians arrive daily at the camp which was originally built for 90,000 people, but is now home to almost 440,000.

In response to the situation, the European Union aid chief, Kristalina Georgieva is traveling with a delegation to Kenya on Friday to evaluate what the bloc can do to relieve the crisis.

"They will assess the situation in the Dadaab refugee camp in the east of the country near the border with Somalia," the Polish government, which currently holds the EU presidency, said in a statement.

"The camp is currently home to four times more refugees than its infrastructure allows," it said.

Kenya has urged the United Nations World Food Program to open more feeding centers in Somalia to limit the number of refugees crossing the border.

Blocking aid

But with certain parts of the country under the control of Somali Islamist rebels, aid agencies may struggle to ensure that vital aid reaches some of the worst hit areas.

Insurgents prepare a mortar to launch

Shebab rebels pose a threat to foreign aid groups

The Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels appealed for help earlier this month, saying they would lift a two-year-old ban on foreign aid groups. But they appeared to go back on this pledge on Friday, asserting that the earlier ban on aid agencies remains in place.

"Those earlier banned groups are not welcome to serve in our area of control," Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said in a broadcast on the Islamist radio Al Furqaan.

The rebels also rejected the UN's declaration of famine in two regions of southern Somalia, accusing the UN of exaggerating the severity of the drought.

"We say (the UN declaration) is totally, 100 percent wrong and baseless propaganda. Yes there is drought but the conditions are not as bad as they say," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told a media briefing.

"They have another objective and it wouldn't surprise us if they were politicizing the situation," he added.

The challenge facing relief groups in rebel areas was highlighted further on Thursday when Somalia's newly-appointed Women's Minister Asha Osman Aqiil was abducted while taking office in the rebel-held town of Balad, 30 kilometers north of Mogadishu.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill, Gabriel Borrud (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Ben Knight

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