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First cross-border aid reaches Somalia


A truck was allowed to cross the Kenya-Somalia border Friday, to deliver much needed aid supplied by United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to the small town of Dobley.

The UN news service reports that the border between the two countries has been closed since earlier this month, prohibiting Somalis from reaching refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, where the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and NGOs have been assisting 160,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia.

Thousands of Somalis are said to be taking refuge in Dobley from recent fighting in their country.

Many of those unable to cross the border, said the UN, have taken refuge in Dobley, close to the northeast border of Kenya.

The UNHCR supplied basic household items such as 1 760 sleeping mats, 810 plastic sheets and 1000 kitchen sets.

The UN Children's Fund (Unicef) and the NGO Oxfam contributed mosquito nets, blankets, fuel containers and soap. Thousands were in line hoping to receive supplies, which were distributed by the Kenyan NGO Wajid Social Development Alliance, which has been working with village communities in Somalia, according to UNHCR.

There has been heavy fighting in southern and central Somalia, where the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) drove the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC) out of the Somali capital of Mogadishu and most of the rest of the country last month.

The AU Summit currently underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has placed the situation in Somalia high on its agenda. The AU Executive Council, made up of African Foreign ministers met from Wednesday to Friday to deliberate over a number of issues, including the Somalian crisis.

Reccomendations in this regard will be forwarded to the 8th AU Heads of State Summit to take place on Monday and Tuesday.

An 8000-strong AU peace force is to replace Ethiopian troops who have been gradually withdrawing from Somalia over the past weeks, after successfully ousting members of the UIC.

The fighting has resulted in 400 000 Somalis being internally displaced, of which about 6000 are trapped near the country's border with Kenya.

The UN said security for aid workers remained a top concern, as there have been reports of harassment and detention at the hands of the Ethiopian forces within Somalia.

While most seeking sanctuary in Dobley fled the fighting, others lost their homes when floods, affecting almost a half million people, ravaged the region late last year.

These floods further exacerbated the food shortage crisis in the country.

Forgotten emergency in Somalia

Children in Somalia continue to face serious challenges mainly due to unresolved ethnic divisions, political instability and prevailing poverty.

Military operations, including the recent US air strikes on southern Somalia, prevent children and their families from meeting their most basic needs in health, education and access to safe water.

Around 20 per cent of children suffer from acute malnutrition. This is compounded by the drought, which affected two million people in the central and Southern part of the country in 2006. The drought was followed by a flood emergency in November last year leaving half a million people displaced. In both crises, crops and food stocks were lost. Children weakened by malnutrition are more vulnerable to illnesses such as measles, waterborne diseases, malaria and acute respiratory tract infections.

UNICEF is one of the major humanitarian actors present in Somalia with a broad range of programme activities. This allows UNICEF to provide a rapid response in emergencies through the provision of shelter and non-food items. In close coordination with key partners, UNICEF coordinates the flow of relief items to access vulnerable populations.

UNICEF’s current work in Somalia includes:

Provision of basic health care services including essential medical supplies, routine immunisation and emergency feeding services for people affected by the drought and conflict.

Provision of basic water and sanitation services including chlorination of water in cholera prone areas.

Support for education through the provision of tented learning spaces and materials for displaced children as well as training for teachers.

Provide greater access to information and skills development for HIV prevention, care and support amongst vulnerable women, especially among displaced women.

UNICEF is appealing for £19 million to support its programmes which aim to address the needs of women and children in Somalia.

Your support of our General Emergency Fund will help us to respond to the urgent needs of children living in countries affected by forgotten emergencies, such as Somalia. The fund also enables us to quickly deliver much needed assistance as soon as an emergency strikes.

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