The World Food Program and other such aid organizations have been unable to reach 2.2 million famine victims in militant-controlled areas of Somalia. In fact, the militant group al-Shabab denies that a famine is happening at all.
In early July, al-Shabab gave aid groups the impression that they would be allowed in after having been banned previously. But in more recent statements, al-Shabab said it refuses to accept aid from Western and “Christian” groups, meaning millions of starving people may be forced to hike for days to receive aid in refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia or Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. —BF
The Associated Press:
WFP can’t operate without the militant’s permission; 14 WFP employees have been killed there since 2008. Sheeran called Somalia “the riskiest environment we operate in the world today.”
Al-Shabab signaled in early July that it would accept aid groups it had previously banned, but changed course on Thursday, saying groups like WFP are not welcome. The group’s refusal to accept aid from Western and “Christian” aid groups means millions could starve — or be forced to begin the hike to help to Kenya, Ethiopia or Mogadishu, the Somali capital, which is also being overwhelmed with refugees.
“We know that the epicenter of this famine and drought are in Somalia. We are able to reach about 1.5 million people in Somalia. But there’s about 2.2 million people that are not able to be reached,” Sheeran told The Associated Press. “We welcome the opening to look to ways to reach people. We’ll talk with local authorities and we’ll act where we can go.”
Steering clear of the sensitive politics, Sheeran did not use the word al-Shabab. But it was clear that’s what “local authorities” meant.
Flickr / Oxfam East Africa (CC-BY)
Faduma Hussein Yagoub, a Somali refugee, came with her family to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya on a donkey cart. Her husband and two of her five young children died of hunger on the way. Despite the dangers, thousands of refugees are making the journey every week.