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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs