Somalia needs to become international 'priority': Red Cross

DVBP027 4 X 0363 CHE /AFP-VF73 EAfrica-drought-Somalia-relief-ICRC Somalia needs to become international 'priority': Red Cross GENEVA, Aug 21, 2011 (AFP) - Only when Somalia becomes a priority of the international community will it be able to escape a cycle of famine and violence, the International Red Cross chief said Sunday. "Somalia must become a priority of the international community," International Committee of the Red Cross president Jakob Kellenberger said in an interview published in the Swiss weekly Der Sonntag. "In Somalia people are exposed to the highest pressures. These are people who have suffered from an armed conflict for years now. "They live in a country where there is no government infrastructure. "A precondition for peace is a development policy," Kellenberger said. The United Nations has described Somalia, where a civil war has been going on since 1991, as facing the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world following severe droughts in the region. "A development policy will not prevent natural disasters, but a population is much more resistant if general living conditions are better. "I have been asking myself for years now how much more time is needed until (the international community) becomes committed to a political solution," Kellenberger said. On August 4, the International Red Cross appealed for 120 million francs (106 million euros, 153 million dollars) to feed 1.1 million people for three months in central and south Somalia, in areas controlled by Al-Qaeda-linked rebels. Kellenberger said that "in the past weeks", over 160,000 people had been supplied with food in these areas where other international aid agencies have difficulty accessing. According to the UN, some 12.4 million people in the Horn of Africa, including parts of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda are affected by the drought and in need of humanitarian assistance On Friday Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured famine-hit Mogadishu on the first visit by a major leader in almost 20 years, calling the extreme drought ravaging Somalia "a problem for all humanity". jkc/gk AFP 211034 GMT AUG 11