Proposal to carve up Somalia

NAIROBI (Reuter) - A United Nations mission assessing security for famine relief to millions of starving Somalis is examining proposals to carve the shattered nation up into four separate zones, according to UN sources.

They said the UN team, led by Peter Hansen, a Dane, discussed the plan in meetings with southern warlords over the weekend in Kismayu, the country's second port. The 23-member team of UN troubleshooters, which arrived in Somalia last week, also examined the possible deployment of military observers in the south-west region, on the border with Kenya. That area is one of the most dangerous in a land now ruled by marauding gangs of gunmen, often high on drugs.

'The famine in some of the more remote inland areas is worse than anywhere else,' said a representative of the Somali Peace and Resettlement Organisation, one of the few broad-based bodies left in a nation now riven by inter-clan hatreds. Hundreds of people die daily in what has been labelled the 'worst humanitarian crisis in the world'. Somalia plunged into anarchy after the former dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, was overthrown in January 1991 by rebels who then fell on each other.

The country is in ruins, looted of everything that can be moved. Relief experts say that about 3.5 million people - of the population of 7 million - are at risk of starving to death. 'Lack of food, no assets, and isolation have combined to create a situation where almost all the population are at risk of death from disease or malnutrition,' said Ian Macleod of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef). Yesterday more babies died as the UN team, which will also advise whether to send in thousands of Blue Berets to protect food convoys and kitchens, flew to the relatively stable, but equally famished north of the country. Unicef airlifted emergency medical supplies to four of the worst-hit towns - Galcaio, Garowe, El Bur and Dusa Mareb. 'Up to 15 children are dying every day in each of the four towns out of a total population of under 10,000,' Mr Macleod said.

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