Turkish PM pays landmark visit to famine-hit Somalia

AFP , Friday 19 Aug 2011

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives in Mogadishu to witness the devastation of a severe drought that has left some 12 million people in the Horn of Africa facing starvation

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan disembark from their plane at Aden Abdulle International Airport on their first official visit to Somalia (AP photo)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Mogadishu for the first visit by a major leader in nearly two decades to witness the devastation wrought by a famine in the Somali capital.

Erdogan's visit is the first by a non-African leader to the conflict-torn Somali capital in nearly two decades.

Somalia is the country worst affected in the Horn of Africa by a prolonged drought that has been officially declared a famine by the United Nations in five regions in the country, including Mogadishu itself.

Erdogan, who is accompanied by four ministers, was to tour a camp for the displaced and a hospital in Mogadishu, where more than 100,000 people have fled to recently to seek relief from the drought.

The visit follows Wednesday's meeting in Istanbul by members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation who pledged to donate 350 million dollars to assist the drought- and famine-stricken Somalis.

Security was tightened in Mogadishu, a city that has been battered by bloody insurgency by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels fighting to unseat the Western-backed Somali government.

Passengers on a plane carrying a delegation accompanying Erdogan had a narrow escape when they landed at Mogadishu airport as the right wing of the aircraft scraped the runway, according to Turkey's Anatolia news agency.

No one was injured from the delegation which includes business leaders, lawmakers, musicians and security guards, Anatolia said.

The Shebab earlier this month withdrew from Mogadishu in what they said was a tactical move, but vowed to continue fighting.

Aid agencies have warned that the whole of southern Somalia could be hit by famine in the coming weeks.

The UN's food monitoring unit has described Somalia as facing the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world and Africa's worst food security crisis since the country's 1991-1992 famine.

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