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UN Sends Somali Tsunami Victims Food, Aid

The United Nations World Food Program Wednesday began distributing food aid to an area of Somalia hit particularly hard by the recent Asian tidal wave. The agency has also suspended its transportation of food by the main road in the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan because of rebel attacks.

The United Nations agency Wednesday began transporting 31 metric tons of food to 2,000 people in Hafun, an island in the north of Somalia.

"I understand that of the 200 houses that used to exist in Hafun, only eight remain standing after this tidal wave that affected the Somalia coast," said World Food Program spokeswoman Laura Melo, describing the devastation there.

Ms. Melo said her agency is assessing the situation in other parts of the country and may make more deliveries of food aid. She said the World Food Program has food stores in Puntland, another hard-hit area, that can be used for emergency relief.

The new Somali government, based in Kenya, had called for emergency assistance following Sunday's tidal wave, which originated near the coast of Indonesia.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Gedi told reporters Tuesday he and a delegation plan to tour the country towards the end of the week to assess the damage and advise international aid agencies.

He said the waves killed more than 100 people and injured more than 150 others.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program has stopped transporting food by the main road running through the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan following rebel attacks Monday on the town of Ghubaysh.

The rebel attack sparked widespread fighting between the rebels, militias, and government troops, forcing the agency to halt three convoys that were carrying more than 1.3 million tons of food aid to the capitals of north and south Darfur.

Agency spokeswoman Melo said the suspension means that about 260,000 people will miss their December food rations.

"The truck companies are trying to use an alternative route which is much rougher, which will add time to the transport of the food so there will be significant delays," she added. "A longer road also takes more fuel."

Ms. Melo said her agency is continuing to distribute food to the most affected populations by air, and there is some food in stores across Darfur.

In December, the agency distributed food to 1.2 million people.

The U.N. secretary-general's representative to Sudan, Jan Pronk, said Tuesday rebels recently stole 13 trucks loaded with agency food aid, and may be using the trucks for military purposes.

The Darfur conflict, which the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, has killed tens of thousands and displaced an estimated 1.5 million people since its inception in early 2003.