By Ibrahim Mohamed
By Ibrahim Mohamed
August 13, 2011(Reuters)
MOGADISHU – Somalia on Saturday called for the creation of a special humanitarian force to protect food aid convoys and feeding camps in the famine-hit Horn of Africa country and secure the capital.
Somalia’s capital Mogadishu is still dangerous to visit even after Islamist rebels mostly pulled out last weekend, raising the spectre of more guerrilla-style attacks such as suicide bombings after their military defeat.
The government and an African peacekeeping force admit they do not control all of the capital even after the rebels’ withdrawal, placing thousands of Somali refugees who are streaming into Mogadishu searching for food in danger.
The al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab insurgents began pulling their fighters out of Mogadishu over the weekend, raising hopes humanitarian groups would be able to step up aid deliveries after years of blockages by the militant group.
Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said his administration wanted a humanitarian force during a joint news conference with Valerie Amos, U.N. under-secretary-general and emergency relief coordinator, who visited the capital.
“We met today with Valerie Amos… we have discussed the current humanitarian situation in Somalia and the best way that we can assist with humanitarian aid to the people,” said Ali.
“We have also raised the issue of creating a special humanitarian force which has dual purposes. First to secure and protect the food aid convoy, and to protect the camps and stabilise the city and fight banditry and looting.”
Ali did not say who would make up such a force.
Earlier this month, government troops fired shots and fought amongst themselves as they loaded wheelbarrows and minibuses with food for famine victims provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) at the Badbaado camp near the city.
Amos called for improved security for food convoys, and said she was shocked at the conditions after touring a hospital and meeting Somalis who had walked long distances to find food.
“The prime minister and I discussed the importance of security to ensure that humanitarian operations can continue… I am confident that with an improvement of security we will be able to do more to help those people who are desperately in need,” Amos said.
“I was shocked to see some of the children at the hospital that I visited, and I can’t imagine what it feels like to be a parent these children serving that level of malnutrition.”
Worsening living conditions is a cholera epidemic that is spreading in the country, with alarming numbers of cases among people driven to the capital by a lack of food and water, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
About 3.6 million people in Somalia are at risk of starvation in the country’s worst drought in decades.
In all, some 12.4 million people in the Horn of Africa — including Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti — are affected by the worst drought in decades, according to the United Nations. Tens of thousands of people have already died.