Through much of the year, violence has disrupted humanitarian operations in Somalia. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the capital Mogadishu for the surrounding areas, making it difficult for relief agencies to reach those in need.
Peter Smerdon is a spokesperson for the World Food Program. He’s just returned to Nairobi from Johar in the Middle Shabelle region of Somalia, and spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the WFP’s operations there.
"We went there because the World Food Program is increasing its distributions in Middle and Lower Shabelle, mainly because they usually are the breadbasket of Somalia. They produce enough food for themselves and also export to other regions. But this year because of poor rains, they’ve had the worst cereal harvest in 13 years. So a lot of people in this largely farming region need international assistance. In addition, they are having to host in Middle Shabelle some 83,000 (people), who were displaced from Mogadishu by the fighting earlier this year. So, that’s an additional burden they don’t need,” he says.
Smerdon describes getting food aid to the region. “It is difficult. It is not impossible at the moment. You have to bring in through Mogadishu or through Merca or Kismayo, ports on the Somali coast and then truck them through. There are still some delays at checkpoints, but the food arrived in time for this distribution, which started at the start of the week. And by the end of this week we should have fed nearly 100,000 people in Middle Shabelle alone,” he says.
He says getting food to Somalia itself can be a problem, especially when pirates threaten ships carrying aid.