The United States maintains that the problem is not with U.S. policy, but with al Shabaab. The group is known for its brutal leadership including stoning a 13-year-old girl to death after she was raped, dismembering alleged thieves, and banning movies, cell phone ring tones and even bras.
"U.S. sanctions are not the issue or the problem," says Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of African Affairs at the State Department.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in a statement that the United States will provide an additional $28 million in emergency aid money to the Somalis in dire need.
"We remain cautiously optimistic that al-Shabaab will permit unimpeded international assistance in famine struck areas," she said.
Two years ago Shabaab banned all foreign aid agencies, accusing them of having an anti-Muslim agenda. Since the crisis Shabaab leadership announced it was lifting the ban and asked for help, setting up "drought committees" to vet humanitarian agencies to make sure they had no "hidden agenda."
The U.N. says it's using local sources on the ground to talk with these committees. UNICEF has already delivered aid in some Shabaab-controlled areas and it said has been distributed unfettered.
The World Food Program, which is the largest distributer of food aid in the world, said today some of the options for delivering aid include airlifting high energy biscuits and nutritious food supplements into some of the worst-affected and least secure areas. The food would be then be distributed to the hungry by the few local humanitarian groups working in the areas.
"The challenge now is how to put back in place a sustainable delivery system where we can be sure it reaches the right people, where we have security on the ground for our staff," Stephanie Savariaud, the WFP Africa spokesperson told ABC News. "I'ts not just about dropping the food somewhere. It's about securing the area it's going to be in. And about putting into place a system of distribution to make sure the food goes to the right people."
Savariaud acknowledges that trying to intervene in a lawless country that hasn't had a functioning government in more than 20 years is a daunting task, but with millions of lives at stake, not intervening isn't an option.
"Humanitarian principles have been challenged," she said. "But we still have to help."