OBI (AFP) - The UN said Sunday it had made its first delivery of aid to a rebel-held Somalia region in two years, as calls mounted for more international help to deal with the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa.
War-torn Somalia is the worst affected country by a severe drought that has hit the Horn of Africa region, prompting appeals for increased aid to some 10 million people facing starvation, according to UN figures.
The UN children agency airlifted five metric tonnes of food and medicines to Baidoa, a town in central Somalia under the control of the Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebels, after the insurgents lifted a two-year-old ban on foreign relief groups, a spokeswoman said on Sunday.
"It was successful and it was a good step towards airlifting supplies into Somalia. It is the first in two years," said Iman Morooka, the UNICEF spokeswoman for Somalia.
Morooka said the Shebab, who in 2009 expelled foreign aid groups after accusing them of being Western spies and Christian crusaders, "have given approval and gave unhindered access, and it was a smooth operation." The delivery was made on Wednesday and UNICEF said it was ready to take more supplies to southern and central regions of Somalia controlled by the hardline rebels. British Intl Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell on Sunday urged European countries and the international community to step up assistance to the region.