Somalia: Famine is Nearly Catastrophic

Islamist rebels in Somalia who control parts of the country where famine was stated this week have said aid agencies they expelled from those areas last year are not allowed to return. Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants imposed a ban on food aid in 2010, which the U.N. and Washington say has worsened the condition. The U.N. World Food Programme was among several groups forced out of rebel areas which are now preparing to return, describing the situation in Somalia as increasingly desperate, in a news conference in Geneva on July 22nd. WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella said,"The situation is extremely dire. We're convinced that it is a lifesaving mission that we are obligated to undertake and therefore as soon as we receive the assurances that we will have security and the proper conditions of access we will be going back, and in fact we're already making those plans together with our partners." Al Shabaab had promised to allow relief agencies with "no hidden agendas" greater access to their lands. The UN told reporters said it had a "moral imperative" to get back into the areas from which it had been forced out. Melissa Fleming, UN commission for refugees chief spokesperson said, "We are really trying our best to work inside Somalia so that people don't have to make this devastating, life threatening trek into Kenya and Ethiopia. If we could aid the victims on the spot, prevent them from leaving their villages, we would not be in this terrible situation we are seeing now. "Many of the refugees are arriving in very bad shape, we're saying its close to catastrophic, our nutrition experts are calling it a dire nutritional emergency." Al Shabaab accused the United Nations on July 21 in exaggerating the severity of the situation in the southern side of the country for political purposes. Speakers: Melissa Fleming, UN commission for refugees chief spokesperson Emilia Casella, WFP spokesperson By: Ikram Al Yacoub Al Arabiya With Agencies

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