The UN World Food Program is stepping up operations in Somalia to feed more than a quarter of those who’ve been displaced by fighting this year. But it warns its supply lines may be at risk.
From Nairobi, WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the relief efforts.
“Today we just started a second round of food distribution to 122,500 people. So, this distribution is going ahead now and will for the coming days both in Mogadishu, and the area around Mogadishu, to these people who are still displaced or just went home,” he says.
Smerdon says, however, that supply lines are vulnerable. “We are also extremely concerned by rising piracy off Somalia, which is again threatening to cut the fastest and most efficient way that we have to move large amounts of food assistance into Somalia during this crisis. That is by the sea. There have been at least five ships hijacked by pirates off Somalia this year and they appear to be accelerating,” he says.
The WFP spokesman is calling on authorities to help protect the supply lines, even though the Transitional Federal Government does not have a navy. “Yes, it’s difficult for them to do something off the coast if they don’t have ships. In Puntland, they do have some coast guard vessels, so they could possibly do something off shore. And they have tried to do things in the past with them. But generally, we find that these pirates rely on shore bases where they get arms and they eat, etc. etc. They only go out in their boats when they see a ship going past. So, it would be good if the government or anyone could move against them on shore,” he says.
As for food distribution, Smerdon says, “It’s gone more smoothly than it has in recent weeks. We are working with the Transitional Federal Government. They have promised full cooperation with us and generally the situation seems to be getting better. The difficulties are now the usual difficulties we have in Somalia when there’s not insecurity, which are bad roads. It’s currently the rainy season, so some roads are being washed out. Some of our convoys are getting stuck in the mud, but that’s the usual situation in Somalia.”