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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs