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WFP Still Trying to Gear Up Operations in Somalia

Humanitarian operations are still not up to full speed in Somalia, despite rapid military victories by Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian forces. Peter Smerdon is a spokesperson for the World Food Program (WFP). From Nairobi, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the agency’s operations.

“The World Food program is the largest humanitarian agency operating in Somalia. Its operations are starting to return to normal after the disruption of the last two weeks,” he says.

Airdrops had been a big part of WFP operations in Somalia. But Smerdon says, “The situation with airdrops is that we are still exploring the possibility of resuming helicopter operations to reach the few locations in flood affected areas that are still inaccessible by land. It is doubtful the airdrops, which were coming out of Mombasa in Kenya, will resume in Somalia, given what has been in the last few weeks improved road access and the relative expense of dropping food. But we may bring the helicopters back. And because water levels have gone down there’s also a question mark over whether the boats that we were using to deliver food aid to areas cutoff by land will be able to resume their work. So it’s still in a bit of doubt at the moment.”

The rainy season, which normally ends in December, has been forecast to extend into January. “But there has been a real reduction in rain,” says Smerdon, “both in Somalia and in Kenya. Basically, the rains are moving further south in both countries.”

The UNHCR says it is in frequent contact with the TFG about humanitarian operations. The agency says there needs to be a risk assessment before humanitarian flights resume to Mogadishu.