x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Aid ship to sail to Somalia in 10 days

A ship from the UAE will carry 400 tonnes of aid to Somalia in the coming days.

DUBAI // The UAE will soon send a ship to Somalia carrying 400 tonnes of humanitarian assistance less than two weeks after a delegation travelled to help stem the crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The ship carrying food, clothes and medical supplies is expected to leave within the next ten days. The announcement comes a day after a United Nations plane carried 31 tonnes of aid from Dubai to Mogadishu.

"We are planning to send a huge ship within the next 10days," said Dr Saleh Al Taee, the secretary general adviser at Red Crescent Authority (RCA). "We understand from our delegation that the needs are huge. A child is dying every seven minutes in the region."

He said more mobile clinics would soon be dispatched to the camps.

Millions are reeling from the worst drought in decades, exacerbated by continuing conflict in the region. Tens of thousands of severely malnourished and dehydrated people are arriving in makeshift camps in Mogadishu and neighbouring countries.

The RCA has already raised more than half of the 400 tonnes of aid.

Dr Al Taee urged residents to donate money, food, clothes and medicines before the relief ship sets sail. The RCA has contributed Dh4 million in relief efforts since the first UAE delegation left for Somalia in July.

The decision to send a UAE ship and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' airlift - the first in five years to Somalia - comes amid reports of a postponement of the African Union aid conference that was scheduled to start next week. The conference will take place at the end of the month.

More than 2,500 assistance packages containing plastic sheets for shelter, sleeping mats and blankets, containers for water, and kitchen utensils were sent on the UNHCR-chartered plane on Monday. The aid was sent from the agency's emergency stockpile in Dubai, and is the fourth in a series of seven planes that has left the UAE in the past few weeks. The other three flew to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Another flight is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

A number of local agencies sprang into action after Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE, directed them to provide emergency relief. The Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation sent 20 tonnes of food, and will also distribute 1,800 sacks of rice, oil and plastic sheets.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment has been providing food and medical assistance, including anti-diarrhoea medicines to children, in camps on the border of Somalia and Ethiopia. Its delegation, which arrived last week, bought 960 tonnes of food from Addis Ababa, said Ibrahim Bumelha, the establishment's vice president. He said the food - flour, rice, corn, sugar and oil - arrived at the border yesterday, and will soon be distributed to about 20,000 Somali families. The charity will also supervise the drilling of 60 water wells in a bid to help combat the drought.

The UN refugee agency estimated that 100,000 Somalis have fled to Mogadishu over the past two months, adding to an existing 370,000 internally displaced people in the capital.

Renewing its aid appeal for US$145 million (Dh532.5m), the agency said: "Unless new funds are swiftly committed, this shortfall will impact vital humanitarian assistance for tens of thousands of Somali refugees and internally displaced people."

pkannan@thenational.ae