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UN Resumes Aid to Somalia as Terrorists Vanish

Aug 9, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

UN Resumes Aid to Somalia as Terrorists Vanish
Photo: Reuters

It is not often that “ignore the problem and hope it goes away” is a particularly effective strategy in international affairs. Amazingly, however, the international community seems to have successfully employed this tactic in Somalia to drive the terrorist group al-Shabab from the capital Moghadishu. Al-Shabab had held a large chunk of the city and had been fighting a small African Union force for control of the remainder; but after spending years in a bitter stalemate, they seem to have determined to just pack-up and leave. As reported by Reuters:

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Thousands of Somali refugees, fleeing famine and years of violence, streamed into Mogadishu on Monday searching for food after Islamist rebels withdrew from the capital.

The al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab insurgents began pulling their fighters out of Mogadishu over the weekend, raising hopes that humanitarian groups would be able to step up aid deliveries after years of blockages by the militant group.

Locals told Reuters long lines of refugees were now heading to the battle-scarred city to escape the region’s worst drought in decades, and existing supplies were already running low.

… Al Shabaab withdrew four years into their battle to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government, an insurgency that has driven the chaotic country deeper into anarchy.

This is an encouraging development for many Somalis, given that – as this blog has been reporting – Al Shabab has been violently chasing away all foreign aid efforts. As reported by Al Jazeera, this development has allowed the UN to resume aid missions to the Somali capital.

The United Nations’ refugee agency has flown aid into the war-torn capital of Somalia for the first time in five years, as the country battles with a devastating famine.

The flight left from Dubai on Monday morning with 31 metric tons of emergency supplies and arrived in Mogadishu that afternoon, according to Andy Needham from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

He said there would be another two aid flights to Mogadishu – one on Thursday and another next week.

“The reason why we are doing this emergency airlift today is that because of the unprecedented situation, the massive levels of displacement of people by drought and famine into Mogadishu,” Needham said from the tarmac of the airport in Mogadishu.

The incredible departure of al-Shabab from Moghadishu can be counted as a lucky win for an otherwise ineffectual international effort in Somalia – as well as for the city’s starving citizens. This will allow the famine relief recently pledged by the Australian Government to be far more effective and –  if the situation does not alter again –  will probably go a long way toward alleviating the suffering of the millions of starving Somalis.

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

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