More than 60 trucks loaded with food crossed the Kenyan border into Somalia this week. They were among some 100 trucks that had been stranded for over a month because Kenya refused to open the border.
Peter Smerdon is a spokesperson for the UN World Food Program. From Nairobi, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the food shipments.
“Basically, the food situation in Somalia is still very difficult for various reasons. But the good news is that on Tuesday two WFP-contracted trucks carrying humanitarian assistance were allowed by the Kenyan authorities to cross into Somalia through the border crossing point at Mandera in the northeast , and on Thursday a total of 60 WFP-contracted trucks, loaded with 1800 metric tons of WFP food, followed them over the border. So, that’s good because these are the first WFP-contracted trucks allowed to cross the Kenyan border into Somalia since May,” he says.
Asked whether this means the WFP will now have free access to Somalia by truck, Smerdon says, “What we hope is that with these two successful movements, WFP now believes that the issue of humanitarian assistance being unable to cross from Kenya to Somalia by road is resolved finally. And we hope that more trucks will follow these 62 (trucks) in the near future. Food distributions that were due in June in South Gedo region of Somalia will resume as possible with this food coming across. And the food carried by the trucks is enough to feed 100,000 people for 45 days.”
Smerdon says the food distribution itself is relatively easy because Somalis welcome the aid, but “it’s difficult getting the food in there because of the poor roads and the complete lack of roads in some places. Plus rains sometimes damage the roads and insecurity cause us problems.”
Food distribution within the capital, Mogadishu, has been suspended for about a week while the Transitional Federal Government tightens security about a food center. Shootings in the area left several people dead recently.