March 15, 2017 / 12:40 PM / in 8 months

UK foreign minister visits Somalia, pledges drought aid

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - British foreign minister Boris Johnson met Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Wednesday, pledging aid to help combat the effects of a devastating drought, the Somali president’s office said.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson helps to load supplies for treating malnourished children affected by the severe drought in Somalia onto a cargo plane at Mogadishu International Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Karel Prinsloo/UNICEF/Handout via REUTERS

The country has been mired in civil war for more than a quarter of a century, and this year around 6.2 million Somalis, around half the population, need aid after the drought withered crops, killed livestock and dried up waterholes in East Africa.

A statement from the Somali president’s office said Britain would give 110 million pounds ($134.35 million) for drought in some parts of Somalia.

The British Foreign Office said in a statement that Johnson discussed the drought and security.

Britain pays stipends of $100 per month to some Somali police and soldiers, yet major problems with the security forces remain, including accountability for rights abuses and who has command and control of regional forces.

“Boris met Somalia’s president Mohamed and discussed strengthening ties with Somalia, doubling the support for Somali government, and aid assistance for the drought,” the website for state-run Radio Mogadishu said.

Although it remains mired in violence and poverty, Somalia has shown some small signs of progress in recent years.

African Union peacekeepers have clawed back large swathes of territory from Islamist insurgents al Shabaab. New federal states have devolved power from the weak central government.

Last month, the president was elected in a political process which was heavily criticized for corruption but still resulted in a peaceful transfer of power.

The drought, however, is threatening to erase some of the fragile gains and tip the country into famine. At least 360,000 Somali children are severely malnourished, meaning they will die within weeks unless they receive food aid.

A 2011 famine in Somalia killed around 260,000 people.

Writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Susan Thomas and Toby Davis

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