As the violence in Somalia continues on a daily basis, efforts are also continuing to help those most affected – the civilian population. The UN World Food Program is one of the agencies working in Somalia, trying to feed many thousands of people who’ve been displaced or otherwise affected by the fighting.
From Nairobi, WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon talks to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the on-going food operations there.
“The latest is we’ve got monthly food distributions underway in Lower Shabelle, which includes Afgooye, which is one of the main centers to where people have fled from Mogadishu. We’ve also got two ships carrying WFP food that arrived yesterday (Monday) off the Port of Merka, which is about a hundred kilometers southwest of Mogadishu…. These ships were escorted by the French Navy. It’s the third trip of ships carrying WFP food to Somalia to be escorted by the French navy and that’s because of the danger of piracy. Since the French escort started there have been no attacks on ships carrying WFP food,” he says.
The food is needed in part because Somalia has suffered its worst cereal harvest in 13 years.
Smerdon says, “In addition, in Mogadishu, a Somali NGO is using WFP food to give approximately 30,000 prepared meals a day to people who are willing to line up for a few hours to get a meal. This is an attempt to address what we fear is a deteriorating situation in Mogadishu, with rates of malnutrition rising.”
The operation in 10 districts of the city also prevents the looting of food by armed groups because people simply eat the meals and leave. They don’t take any food sacks back with them. Also, local authorities and communities supply security.
In Afgooye, the WFP faces other problems. “We’re doing a distribution to the displaced from Mogadishu. There are approximately 200,000 people there. We fed most of them at the end of last month, so we’re now doing another distribution to them. More than 600,000 have fled Mogadishu. Many went to Afgooye, but many went both south and north of the capital and we and other agencies are distributing to them…. They are also in need of things like sanitation, medical facilities and shelter. There’s quite a lot of diarrhea in Afgooye and kids are getting very sick because of the poor sanitation in that area since they arrived,” he says.
The United Nations calls Somalia the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa, due to insecurity, widespread displacement, fighting and difficulty in getting assistance to those in need.