Increase in UK aid to Somalia

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The Independent Online
BARONESS Chalker, speaking with emotion of children dying in her arms, yesterday announced a further pounds 7.5m in British aid to Somalia after returning from a visit to the famine-stricken country. At the same time, United Nations officials reported that airdrops of food had begun over remote parts of the country.

Lady Chalker, the Minister for Overseas Development, said the new money would bring to pounds 24m Britain's total aid to Somalia this year. 'I held children in my arms who will not be alive at the end of this week,' she said in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, after leading a mission of three European Community ministers to Somalia, where war and famine have claimed more than 100,000 lives.

A spokeswoman for the World Food Programme said the WFP began an airdrop in Somalia on Sunday with the delivery of 14 tons of wheat to Tigieglo, a village 170 miles north-west of Mogadishu. The food drops are part of an effort to stop thousands of people leaving their homes for larger towns in search of food. The WFP had said at the weekend that airdrops would be postponed indefinitely because advance publicity had risked drawing looters and bandits to the airdrop sites. The spokeswoman said the UN body had decided to go ahead while withholding advance information about the destinations.

Lady Chalker said she was confident new UN plans will give relief operations 'the co-ordination that is so desperately needed now'. Relief agencies called on Lady Chalker to call an emergency summit of development ministers while Britain holds the EC presidency. Justin Forsyth, a policy adviser to Oxfam, said this should deal not only with the immediate crisis, but with recommendations for recovery and for preventing a cycle of famine spreading to southern Africa.

LUSAKA - Lady Chalker said that Western donors will continue to withhold aid to Malawi until it improves its poor human rights record, Reuter reports.

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