Somalia and the African Union mission have kicked off discussions aimed at opening main supply routes to ease access to humanitarian aid in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa nation.

Senior African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) officials are holding talks with government officials on the modalities of opening and securing main supply routes to help facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid to drought stricken communities in the country. Rashid Abdullahi Mohamed, Minister of Defence, said Somalia National Army (SNA) will ensure humanitarian relief reaches residents affected by the drought. He said the initiative will help alleviate the humanitarian crisis and save thousands of lives. “I think that the plan presented was very amazing and we do really appreciate, if it is implemented,” Mohamed said in a statement issued in Mogadishu by AU mission on Tuesday. “I believe we will have a realistic outcome to support and mobilize the country and allow free movement, better protection and better access for both economic improvement and protection of the community that has been affected by the drought,” said Mohamed.

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Aid agencies say the poor state of main supply routes in south-central Somalia had provided conditions for Al-Shabaab to continue laying ambushes and use explosive devices against AMISOM convoys and Somali national security forces. AMISOM Chief Operations Officer, Col. Mutacho Othieno said that the project to open and secure main supply routes will be augmented with operations to rid the country of the Al-Shabaab. “What we want to do is to clear the shoulders of these roads up to 20 meters on either side but we shall also include operations to clear Al-Shabaab remnants, 20kms on each side of the roads to ensure that the movement is safe and Al-Shabaab does not lay mines and ambushes along the routes,” Othieno said.

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The use of the deadly devices on main supply routes has been cited as one of the key reasons restricting response to humanitarian crisis and hampering troops’ access to AMISOM forward operating bases in various sectors.The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Francisco Madeira said the opening and securing of main supply routes is crucial for channeling humanitarian aid needed by drought-stricken residents.Madeira lauded the move, noting that AMISOM will support the government in securing the main roads. He said the impact of opening main supply routes is so critical that needs swift implementation. “If we took one supply route for example the Mogadishu-Baidoa, if we open that supply route and make sure that the population along those routes are protected, make sure that the road is passable every day, that is a major boost to the economy, a major boost for the normalization of life and a major boost to the defeat of the Al-Shabaab,” he said.

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Source: Xinhua/