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US, Europe urged to do more to ward off severe famine in parched Somalia

Refugees waited to receive food in their makeshift camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. The country is experiencing a severe drought. Refugees waited to receive food in their makeshift camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. The country is experiencing a severe drought. (Mohamed Sheikh Nor/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / July 25, 2011

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DOLO, Somalia - Somalia’s famine will be five times worse by Christmas unless the international community increases its food aid, Australia’s foreign minister said yesterday during a visit to Somalia, even as the international Red Cross distributed 400 tons of food into hard-to-reach areas of the south.

Kevin Rudd was in Somalia’s famine-struck area of Dolo to appeal to the world to help avoid a catastrophe. During his visit hundreds of women with small children in tow massed around a World Food Program sign-up table. Rudd talked with internal refugees who have had little to eat in recent days.

The World Food Program’s executive director, Josette Sheeran, said the program will open new feeding sites in and around Dolo by the end of the week. She said it is critical that the agency gets new funding to fight the three-pronged catastrophe of drought, conflict, and high food prices.

The agency estimates more than 11.3 million people need aid across drought-hit regions in East Africa.

The United States last week announced it was giving an additional $28 million in emergency funding on top of the $431 million in assistance already given this year. Rudd suggested that the US and Europe should do more to avoid a massive number of deaths, despite the financial hardships those regions are experiencing.

“The reason we do it is it’s part of who we are,’’ Rudd said. “Part of America’s great standing around the world since World War II is its combination of hard power and soft power. . . . US aid given around the world helps their standing in the world. It’s part of the American greatness that we’ve seen.’’