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Somali Islamists Maintain Aid Ban While Denying Famine

Jul 23, 2011 5:24:22 PM - thesundayleader.lk

Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamists have denied lifting their ban on Western aid agencies while also saying UN reports of famine are ‘sheer propaganda’.

On Wednesday (20) UN reports stated that parts of Somalia were suffering from a famine following its worst drought in 60 years. However, a spokesman for al-Shabab denied these claims accusing the foreign aid groups of being politically minded.

Following fresh fighting in 2009 most aid groups were banned from Somalia including the United Nations World Food Programme. Despite the ban still in effect the UN has stated that they are preparing to airlift food into the capital, Mogadishu, to help the thousands of malnourished children that face starvation.

Despite most of East Africa facing starvation, Somalia is reported as one of the worst hit regions. The lack of any national government has seen an absence of any co-ordination regarding aid distribution.

Bakool and Lower Shabelle, the two districts where a famine has been declared, are under al-Shabab control. Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage earlier this month announced that aid agencies, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, would be allowed back into Somalia as long as they had ‘no hidden agenda.’ On Thursday (21), however, Rage told media that the aid agencies that were banned by the group remained banned as they had been involved in political activities.

Despite admitting that a drought was prevalent in Somalia, Rage denied the reports of a famine calling them ‘baseless and sheer propaganda.’

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on Wednesday (20), said $300m (£184m) was needed in the next two months to provide an adequate response to the areas affected by famine. He added that nearly half the Somali population (3.7 million) was in crisis.