Half a million gain ICRC aid in Somali struggle for survival

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The Red Cross said Wednesday that it had provided aid to more than half a million people in Somalia in recent weeks, as Somalis struggle for survival in "dire" conditions even away from the fighting.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimated that millions of Somalis were dependent on humanitarian assistance from various sources as a drought added to the crisis wrought by ongoing fighting.

"Twenty years of war have left Somalia in a dire state that is steadily getting worse," said Pascal Mauchle, the ICRC's head for Somalia.

"The economic situation is still deteriorating and people struggle for their daily survival, not only in conflict-affected areas but also in major cities in the northern part of the country," he added in a statement.

Mauchle underlined that tens of thousands of people had continued to flee the capital Mogadishu in recent months, while food production has fallen and prices of scarce essentials have "skyrocketed" making life unaffordable.

The agency and the Somali Red Crescent distributed two month rations of rice beans and oil as well as shelter supplies to about 240,000 displaced or vulnerable people.

Another 300,000 people received blankets, cooking equipment and plastic roofing in the relief operation last month stretching from embattled Mogadishu to Afgoye, as well as cities in the south, centre and northern Puntland.

"There were 400,000 people a year ago, 35 percent more people received assistance this time," ICRC spokesman Marcal Izard told AFP.

About one quarter of those who received assistance in recent weeks were in Mogadishu, the epicentre of years of bloody internal strife that now pits Islamist groups against forces loyal to a weak transitional government.

One-third were outside conflict areas in Puntland and Mudug in the north, said Izard.

Priority for the aid was given to disabled people, orphans and households headed by women.

© 2011 AFP

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