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Increasing Somali Violence Puts Food Aid at Risk

When violence increases in Somalia, humanitarian operations are put at risk. The World Food Program is one of the aid agencies operating in Somalia under difficult conditions.

WFP spokesman Marcus Prior, in Nairobi, spoke to VOA about food distribution in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, saying,"The World Food Program is extremely concerned by the new displacement caused by the latest round of fighting," he says.

Thousands of people have fled the capital in recent days.

Many need of food aid

"We were already feeding about 400,000 people along the Afgooye corridor, southwest of Mogadishu, who've been displaced by fighting in the past. And the fact that the situation is so insecure means that it's very difficult to get a really clear picture of what is happening there," he says.

Despite the insecurity, the food goes out. Somalia is considered one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, as fighting between the Transitional Federal Government forces and militias continues.

"We continue to off-load a ship packed with WFP food currently in Mogadishu port without any problems. Provision of daily meals to about 80,000 people across several districts of Mogadishu…continues…. And there are also trucks proceeding down along the Afgooye corridor to deliver food supplies…where so many people are displaced," he says.

Nevertheless, Prior calls it an "extremely fluid and extremely dangerous situation." Adding, "Obviously, the operations only continue as and when they can."

Beyond Mogadishu

Prior says, "Certainly, those operations continue. (However) there are parts of the country where it remains extremely difficult for security reasons to continue food distributions. We had two staff killed in a week at the beginning of this year. And following that, we proceeded to seek a reengagement with communities across south central Somalia to seek security reassurances that we would be able to operate safely."

The WFP is still awaiting safety guarantees in a few areas.

Pirates not a problem

In the past, ships laden with food for WFP were prime targets for Somali pirates. But Prior says those ships now have safe passage.

"Every ship that heads into Somalia carrying the World Food Program food is escorted by naval vessels at this stage. The European Union have committed to do that for a year. And that has meant that we've not had any problems…since the escort operation began back in late 2007 from the pirates," he says.

At least 90 percent of the WFP's food aid for Somalia is brought in by ship.