NAIROBI, May 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Kidnapping of
aid workers and extortion at checkpoints are on the rise in
Somalia, the United Nations said on Thursday, hindering efforts
to prevent the country slipping into renewed famine.
In the first 27 days of April, 13 humanitarian workers were
abducted, the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) said in an update, the highest monthly figure
"The affected personnel are all frontline responders," it
said, without giving further details.
Four aid workers carrying out vaccinations were kidnapped by
al Shabaab jihadist militants, who are fighting to topple the
government, in early April, according to media reports.
The U.N. is racing to avoid a repeat of the 2011 famine in
the drought-hit Horn of African nation, when more than 250,000
people died of starvation.
An estimated 2.9 million people in Somalia are facing
famine, along with 17 million in northeast Nigeria, South Sudan
and Yemen, the United Nations says.
There were more than 30 violent incidents in Somalia, such
as attacks and killings, affecting humanitarian organisations in
April, almost equal to the total for the first three months of
2017, the U.N. said.
Looting and rowdy crowds disrupting aid distributions have
led to 12 deaths so far in 2017, it said, without giving
"It's mainly to do with people being hungry and differences
of opinion over who should receive what," Tapiwa Gomo, a
spokesman for U.N. OCHA in Somalia told the Thomson Reuters
More than 620,000 people have left their homes because of
the drought since November, the U.N. said, slowing down farmers'
land preparation as the rainy season starts.
Road blocks, conflict and extortions at checkpoints are
restricting travel in most of southern and central Somalia, it
said, with passengers being raped, assaulted and robbed.
Convoys of up to 60 commercial and aid trucks have been
stranded for more than a week after local authorities demanded
"high amounts of unjustified extortions", it said.
"Over 40 static 'illegal taxation' checkpoints have been set
up along the Mogadishu-Baidoa-Dollow access road," it said,
referring to the route from the capital city to two major towns.
These checkpoints are driving up the cost of delivering aid
and consumer prices in drought-stricken areas, it said.
(Reporting by Katy Migiro @katymigiro; Editing by Ros Russell;
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