French aircraft deliver food to starving Somalis

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The Independent Online
NAIROBI - An international relief effort for starving Somalis gathered pace yesterday, with French military transport planes flying 20 tons of aid into the south-western Somali town of Baidoa.

The arrival of the first Hercules caused 'some tension around the airport' with the presence of armed people, a French embassy source in Nairobi said, but the food was handed to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Baidoa.

The ICRC has set up 500 communal kitchens to feed the hungry across Somalia, where 25 per cent of children below the age of five are reported to have starved to death. A second planeload of 20 tons left the French military base at Djibouti for Baidoa yesterday, the French embassy said.

The operation is part of France's emergency aid package decided after a visit by Bernard Kouchner, the Health and Humanitarian Action Minister. The United States plans to send 80,000 tons of food to Somalia in the next six weeks and 145,000 tons from 1 October with the help of private humanitarian groups. Some of the US food has arrived in the Kenyan port of Mombasa and will be flown to the town of Wajir in north-eastern Kenya, probably today. An American team is in Kenya reviewing the logistical and security elements of airlifting food supplies. Another four US Hercules planes were due to arrive in Mombasa yesterday.

The head of the team, Brigadier General Franck Libutti, has already visited Baidoa and will assess potential food-delivery points in other parts of Somalia, the US embassy said yesterday. The American relief effort is also aimed at putting enough food into the market to drive down and stabilise prices and to decentralise relief, to move people out of cities.

Germany decided on Wednesday to join the international relief effort to Somalia and will provide dollars 13.7m ( pounds 7.2m) of emergency food. Two German Transall planes are expected to arrive in Mombasa tomorrow to help to transport the food.

NEW YORK - The United Nations food airlift to the besieged southern Sudanese city of Juba resumed yesterday, despite a refusal by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army to grant permission for the operation, a UN official said. An aircraft loaded with 24 tons of maize and 16 tons of medical supplies landed safely in Juba airport yesterday. The airlift of food is expected to last at least two weeks. Some 300,000 people in Juba are at risk of starving.

(Photograph omitted)

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