Famine Relief Progress Slow in Race to Save Millions

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The United States also announced it was lifting restrictions on humanitarian groups working in areas controlled by the insurgents.

Al Shabab is classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization making it against the law to provide any material support to the group.

In 2010, many aid agencies pulled out of the very areas now in the famine zone because paying taxes imposed by Shabab and other restrictions set by the militant group made it impossible to operate in the region safely without running afoul of anti-terror laws.

Now, as long as agencies invoke good faith effort to ensure that aid does not go to Shabab, they will not have to worry about being prosecuted, U.S. State Department officials announced.

"What we would like is for all the food aid to go to the people in need," said Horton, but said the U.S. government recognizes that, "sometimes some of this assistance may accidentally reach Al Shabab."

The change in the restrictions is a reflection of the extraordinary circumstances aid group are facing; racing to feed some three million people who are on the verge of starvation, with almost no access.

But despite the positive developments in curbing the fall out from the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in 60 years, the overall news remains dire.

Aid agencies say they are still woefully underfunded to help the now 13 million people living in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djbouti in need of emergency assistance.

The United States, which has pledged more than $430 million dollars to drought and famine relief efforts, has dispatched Jill Biden, the Vice President's wife and former Senator Dr. Bill Frist to Kenya as part of a fact-finding delegation.

The team will visit the sprawling and over-crowded Dadaab refugee camp, considered a flashpoint of the crisis. Already home to nearly 400,000 Somali refugees, it continues to receive an average of 1300 Somalis per day, mostly women and children, many of whom have walked for days to escape hunger in their war-torn country.

Ultimately, the greatest challenge for the humanitarian community is the fact that the people who are most in need remain at the mercy of an unpredictable, unorganized, terrorist organization.

"We are working with our partners to give them the flexibility they need," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Dr. Reuben Brigety. "But all of the best intentions of our partners and the donor community cannot succeed unless the access and security issues are addressed."

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