Food Aid Suspended In Somalia

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday it had suspended food distribution to 1.1 million people in central and southern Somalia after Al Shabaab militants blocked deliveries in parts of the famine-hit country.

The independent humanitarian agency, one of few providing aid supplies there despite huge logistical and security constraints, said local authorities had blocked deliveries since mid-December in the Middle Shabelle and Galgadud regions.

“The suspension will continue until we receive assurances from the authorities controlling those areas that distributions can take place unimpeded and reach all those in need, as previously agreed,” Patrick Vial, head of the ICRC delegation for Somalia, said in a statement.

The ICRC said it was in talks with Al Shabaab, an Islamist rebel group linked to Al Qaeda, at solving the problem as soon as possible.

The suspension also affects its distribution of seeds and fertilisers to farmers, which is part of the emergency operation in place since last October to combat the effects of severe drought and war.

“We are in touch with local representatives of Al Shabaab where the events have occurred – 140 trucks have been blocked since mid-December,” ICRC spokeswoman Marie-Servane Desjonqueres said.

Contractors and a senior rebel said last month that Al Shabaab had blocked two ICRC convoys carrying emergency food aid for drought victims.

The rebels, who are hostile to Western intervention in the lawless Horn of Africa country, outlawed 16 relief agencies including the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) in November.

Somalia is the ICRC’s second largest humanitarian program after Afghanistan.