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UAE Aid teams' Somalia heartbreak as famine worsens

posted on 07/09/2011: 956 views

Hundreds of starving families are pouring into Somalia's overcrowded camps every day, adding to the difficulties faced by UAE humanitarian organisations.

Representatives of Al Maktoum Foundation describe the scene as horrific and heartbreaking.

About 600 families arrived on Monday after a dangerous two-month trek from the south, the area hardest hit by the famine, said Mohamed Ahmed Ismail Mohammed, general manager of the foundation's Hargeisa office.

Local government authorities scrambled to put together a makeshift camp. "Many family members didn't survive the journey," Mr Mohammed said. "It's a horrific and heartbreaking situation because these families are suffering. They have nothing."

Al Maktoum Foundation is the personal charity of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance.

In the first phase of the charity's aid programme and through an undisclosed donation, the foundation provided families with 25 kilograms each of rice and flour, 10.5 litres of oil and 12.5kg of sugar - enough to last one month.

Operations will continue for three months, after which the situation will be reassessed.

More than 1,000 orphans were also assisted in areas around Hargeisa. Most of those children, aged between two and 18, are alone, injured, missing limbs or suffering from mental illness after years of deadly conflict.

"The children are incredibly grateful," Mr Mohammed said. "We want people to know there is still suffering.

"So many more need assistance, so it's the worst we have seen to date. Every day, about four to five new areas where people are fleeing do spring up."

Bosaso, in Puntland State, is also quickly filling up. More than 400,000 displaced people flocked to the port city where aid flows more easily, said the foundation's head of office, Al Tayeb Abdalla.

"We see crowds of new people every day. They need tents, clean water, volunteers and mobile medical centres," Mr Abdalla said.

The office is studying further areas in and around Bosaso, to be included in the second phase of aid distribution.

"We will also build water wells that we hope will be enough to help at least 300 families and those with animals for as long as possible," Mr Abdalla said.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs predicted the famine would worsen in the next two months.

The UN has reported hundreds are dying every day, and more than half of the dying are children.

Four million need immediate aid and without enough help at least another 750,000 may die by the end of the year.

Al Maktoum Foundation has two permanent bases in Hargeisa, the capital of the sovereign state of Somaliland, and in Bosaso.

During the first phase of operations, the foundation provided basic food supplies to more than 20,000 people in and around Hargeisa, and thousands more through the Bosaso office.

Phase two, which will begin next month, will increase the basic food supply and add locations. Plans are also under way for a number of wells.

Other aid organisations from the Emirates, including the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA), also began relief efforts after an urgent mandate by Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE.

The RCA raised Dh64 million last month through a telethon on Abu Dhabi TV.

Officials from the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment said they were distributing 900 tonnes of food and digging more than 60 wells, in co-ordination with the RCA and local aid organisations.

A UAE aid vessel has been deployed to Mogadishu, carrying more than 600 tonnes of relief, medical and sheltering supplies, and a mobile medical clinic from the Emirates has been set up in the Somali capital. – The National


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