(AN)UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has Wednesday visited Mogadishu, becoming the first British minister to visit Somalia’s war-torn capital in 18 years.
Mitchell warned of a race against time to tackle the “devastating famine” in the country and said without action 400,000 children could starve to death.
Without an “urgent response” the crisis could become as bad as Somalia’s 1991-2 famine, when over 200,000 people lost their lives, warned Mitchell.
During the trip, the cabinet minister visited a refugee camp and feeding centre, and met officials including Somali Prime Minister Abdiwali Mohamed Ali, who last week announced that a force of 300 men had been created to protect aid convoys – helped by African peacekeepers providing security in Mogadishu.
“The stark fact is that in southern Somalia the situation is deteriorating by the day,” Mr Mitchell said.
Mr Mitchell pledged a £25m ($41.5m) aid package, including food and medicine.
He said there would be new support for Unicef to help provide extra rations for up to 192,000 people and supplies to vaccinate 800,000 children against measles.
He said more security was needed to protect humanitarian workers – and other countries “must also maintain and increase their support at this crucial stage”.
The United Nations estimates that 12 million people have been affected by drought in the Horn of Africa.