News / Africa

WFP Outraged Food May Have Been Stolen from Starving Somalis

An internally displaced Somali girl carries her sibling as they wait to collect food relief from the World Food Program (WFP) at a settlement in Mogadishu August 7, 2011.
An internally displaced Somali girl carries her sibling as they wait to collect food relief from the World Food Program (WFP) at a settlement in Mogadishu August 7, 2011.
Lisa Schlein

The World Food Program strongly condemns the diversion of food from starving, vulnerable Somalis.   WFP says it is investigating the allegations of theft of desperately needed humanitarian food and will suspend any parties found responsible. 

WFP is currently feeding 1.5 million people in central and northern Somalia.  The organization says it is confident the vast majority of humanitarian food is reaching starving people in the capital Mogadishu.  WFP estimates that less than one percent of the food it distributes there has been looted.

While this may not seem to be a lot, WFP says even the smallest amount of food taken from starving and vulnerable Somalis can have serious consequences.  Geneva director Lauren Landis notes Somalia is a particularly difficult and dangerous place to work in.  

She says her agency has a very strong system of controls in place to make sure food goes to the people for whom it is intended.  For example, Landis says WFP employs so-called third party monitors to make sure everything is operating as it should.

“So, these are organizations that we hire - they are not WFP employees - that we hire to go out and take a look at our programs," Landis explains, "and if they find anything, they come back and tell us and  then we investigate it immediately.  And, this is what has happened in this case.  So, we are immediately investigating fully this allegation in this very difficult working environment.”  

An Associated Press report identifies a contractor known as Enow as allegedly having been involved in the sale of WFP food.  His wife heads a powerful Somali aid agency called Saacid that WFP uses to distribute hot food.

The World Food Program would not comment on these allegations, but says it will investigate all alleged incidents and suspend any parties found to be responsible.  WFP says it could suspend distributions while the investigations take place, but says the suspension of life-saving food to millions of starving people is unthinkable.  

Spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume, acknowledges the risks aid workers run in distributing aid in Somalia.  But WFP has no choice, she says.

“The stakes are very high here.  It is peoples’ lives here.  It is a question of death or life.  We need to continue," notes Berthiaume.  "We need to investigate the situation.  We condemn those that are doing that.  But, we need to continue our work because if we do not, people are going to die.  There is no choice.  We have to continue, but to see and try to find and stop if this happened.  I think it is outrageous that people do that.”   

This is not the first time international food aid has been stolen in Somalia.  In 1993, Delta Force Commandos and Army Rangers were dropped into Somalia to kidnap lead terrorist Mohammed Farrah Aidid, who had been killing U.N. workers delivering food to starving Somalis. The U.S. withdrew its forces after the mission failed and many American soldiers lost their lives.

The United Nations reports more than 3.2 million people or half of Somalia’s population is in need of food aid.  More than 450,000 people live in famine zones in south-central Somalia controlled by the Islamist al-Shabab militant group.  The United States estimates 29,000 children under-five have died from malnutrition-related causes.

The World Food Program says it is ready to increase food distributions to 3.7 million people if it can regain access to areas in the south of the country that currently are inaccessible.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid