Somali Insurgents Shut Down Red Cross Food Aid

Somali insurgents have shut down food aid
distribution by a major aid group because they say the organization is
distributing spoiled food in the famine-hit south.


The al-Shabab militant group said late Monday that they were shutting down the Red Cross’ operation permanently.

“Despite
being offered unrivaled access to all the regions governed by the
Mujahideen in South and Central Somalia, the International Committee of
the Red Cross has repeatedly betrayed the trust conferred on it by the
local population,” said the statement from the al-Qaida-linked militia.

The
militia said they conducted a “thorough inspection” of the aid group’s
warehouses and food depots and found that up to 70 percent of the food
was “unfit for human consumption, posing a considerable health hazard
and exposing the vulnerable recipients to acute illnesses.”

A Red Cross spokeswoman said Tuesday that the organization did not have immediate comment.

The
Red Cross previously said some trucks were stuck on bad roads for
several weeks in the rainy season and the food aboard them was spoiled.
That food – about 2,000 tons, according to al-Shabab – was publicly
burned after the militia had taken photos of the moldy beans.

The
Red Cross began distributing monthly rations to 1.1 million people in
October and were midway through the second distribution when a convoy of
trucks was stopped by al-Shabab in mid-December in Jowhar. Negotiations
for their release took several weeks but were ultimately unsuccessful.

The
Red Cross formally suspended operations in al-Shabab areas of southern
Somalia on Jan. 12. They are the only agency bringing in food to those
famine-hit areas on such a large scale.

The
U.N. said more than 13 million people were in need of aid and 750,000 at
risk of starvation at the height of the Somali famine. Those at risk of
starvation have subsequently dropped to 250,000 after an influx of aid
and after seasonal rains arrived, meaning crops could be planted.

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