The United Nation’s World Food Program airlifted 10 tones of nutritional supplements into famine-struck Somalia Wednesday as the UN continues to call for a major international humanitarian effort for the region.
Security concerns are preventing aid agencies from providing assistance to around 2.2 million people in urgent need of assistance.
The Al Qaeda-linked militant group Al Shabaab forced international aid agencies out of Somalia two years ago and has refused to support the safe passage of agency staff who are working to alleviate the food crisis.
The United Nations declared a famine in southern Somalia last week; the organization defines ‘famine’ as a situation when over 30 percent of the population is malnourished. The UN says it is likely that tens of thousands of people - mostly children - have already have died.
World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran warned Monday that without immediate international intervention, the crisis could spread.
(Read more Global Post coverage: Famine stalks southern Somalia)
WFP spokeswoman Challiss McDonough said several more airlifts into Somalia are planned this week and that Wednesday’s supplies of a peanut-based paste would feed 3,500 children for a month, the AP reports.
Around 18,000 children are suffering from malnutrition, but that figure is expected to grow as the food crisis continues. Somalia's famine was sparked by the worst drought to strike the Horn of Africa for decades.
On Tuesday, UNICEF and the World Health Organization launched a major refugee vaccination drive in conjunction with the Kenyan Ministry of Health. The program aims to vaccinate over 200,000 young children living in north Kenyan refugee camps against measles and polio.
A similar campaign was launched in southern Somalia last week.
Al Shabaab is being blamed for a bomb attack in near the Somali border in Kenya which killed a policeman Wednesday, Reuters reports. Kenyan forces have been building along the border, prompting speculation of a joint offensive with the Somali government against the militants.