The United Nations is urging the Somali-based militant group al-Shabaab to pledge it won't attack humanitarian aid workers so that millions of famished Somalis can be rescued.
Mark Bowden, the U.N. aid coordinator for Somalia, said Thursday he welcomes al-Shabaab's decision to reopen areas of Somalia under its control to humanitarian aid workers, but they "need guarantees" they won't be targeted or their agencies taxed.
Bowden said millions of Somalis, particularly in the south, are severely hungry due to extreme violence and drought and that thousands will die if no help comes.
Bowden said the U.N. stands "ready to scale up assistance," if safety is guaranteed.
Last year the militants expelled some aid groups in southern Somalia and made it tough to help many of those most in need.