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UN hosts emergency meeting on Somalia famine

Jul 25, 2011 6:45:00 AM - thestate.com
The World Bank promises to provide more than $500 million to help drought victims in East Africa as a U.N. agency hosts an emergency meeting aimed at fighting famine in Somalia and nearby countries.

The money would be spent on projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia, including the worst-stricken areas in that country "where circumstances permit," the bank said. That was a reference to al-Shabab militants, who have limited the ability of aid groups to reach victims in hard-hit southern Somalia.

The decades-old conflict in Somalia has long complicated efforts to get aid to its people. Al-Shabab denies there is famine and is preventing some Western aid groups from helping those in need. The U.N. World Food Program has said it cannot reach 2.2 million Somalis at risk of starvation.

"Immediate relief and recovery is the first priority, and it is important to act fast to reduce human suffering," said World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick in a statement.

"But we also have an eye on the long-term solutions of economic recovery and drought resilience that are key to re-establishing livelihoods and ensuring that droughts don't take such a heavy human toll in the future." He added that the world needs to invest in "climate-smart" agriculture, including drought-resistant seeds.

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