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UN refugee agency makes emergency aid flight to Somalia

By the CNN Wire Staff
A Somali father and daughter sit at the head of a queue at a registration center at the Dagahaley refugee site.
A Somali father and daughter sit at the head of a queue at a registration center at the Dagahaley refugee site.
  • NEW: Obama approves additional $105 million in aid for Horn of Africa
  • Monday's flight contains 31 metric tons (more than 34 U.S. tons) of supplies
  • The agency is sending supplies by air due to the need for speedy relief
  • A devastating famine and drought has sent about 100,000 Somalis to the capital

Monday night on CNN, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta report live from Somalia with more on the country's disturbing hunger situation. "AC360" is now at 8 and 10 p.m. ET weeknights on CNN.

(CNN) -- For the first time in five years, a relief agency dedicated to refugees airlifted emergency aid into the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Monday, according to a spokesman.

The flight left from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday morning with 31 metric tons (more than 34 U.S. tons) of emergency supplies and arrived in Mogadishu early Monday afternoon, said Andy Needham from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The aid flight comes just days after Islamic insurgents fled Mogadishu after a heated battle with government and African Union forces. But the trip has nothing to do with improved security, Needham said.

"We took the unprecedented decision to take the airlift for speed due to the famine," he said.

More than 400,000 refugees in camp
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Feeding Somalia's hungry

Needham said the group has warehouses across Somalia and would "normally re-stock them over land." But the agency shifted logistics in reaction to starving people flocking to Mogadishu.

Monday's plane carried almost 2,500 emergency assistance packages. Each package contains an improvised tent sheet, sleeping mats, blankets, water containers and food utensils.

"The supplies will be distributed almost immediately," Needham said.

At least two more supply flights are in the pipeline. The next, which is due to land Thursday, will be similar to Monday's delivery.

The third flight will include "high-energy biscuits."

Also Monday, the White House announced that U.S. President Barack Obama approved an additional $105 million for relief efforts in the Horn of Africa.

"U.S. assistance will continue funding the urgently needed food, health, shelter, water and sanitation assistance to those who desperately need help," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

About 100,000 Somalis have flocked to Mogadishu in search of food and potable water, which have disappeared in a devastating famine and drought, according to the U.N. They join more than 370,000 internal refugees already in the capital in war-torn southern Somalia, many of whom also face hunger.

The UNHCR is calling for more private and government donations for emergency operations in the Horn of Africa, warning that a lack of funds threatens future aid.

The aid organization says it needs $145 million to cover operations through the end of the year, adding that it has received 45% of that amount so far.

The U.N. declared famine in five areas of southern Somalia in June, including Mogadishu. In all, about 12 million people in the Horn of Africa region need assistance. Somalia is the worst hit.

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