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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid