International Red Cross Begins Major Aid Push in Somali Famine Zones

The International Committee of the Red Cross has launched an aid distribution program targeting a million people in famine-stricken areas of Somalia controlled by al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group, BBC News reports.

Using its twenty-year track record in Somalia to establish its credibility, the Red Cross lobbied al-Shabaab, which has banned several international aid groups from working in areas under its control, for permission to conduct a three-month aid distribution program designed to assist vulnerable Somalis.

The United Nations has declared famine zones in six regions across Somalia — most of them in areas controlled by al-Shabaab — while tens of thousands of Somalis have fled to the capital of Mogadishu or refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

According to UN estimates, some two million Somalis received food aid during September, and if the Red Cross is able to reach another million people, nearly three-quarters of the vulnerable population will have been served. The disaster relief organization also plans to distribute seeds to nearly 250,000 farmers to assist the region's long-term recovery efforts.