Somalia, like many other countries, is suffering from high food prices and food shortages. The problem is being made much worse by the country’s huge humanitarian crisis. Wednesday, in the capital Mogadishu, Ethiopian troops distributed a small amount of food to some of the remaining residents.
VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu is following developments in Somalia. From Nairobi, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the food distribution.
“They certainly surprised a lot of people in Mogadishu yesterday when they donated food aid for the first time…. A lot of people were asking: well, why are the Ethiopians doing this. And of course the speculation is that the move is aimed at winning public support and trying to get some of the Somalis who’ve been supporting the insurgency that has been raging in the country since January 2007…to think twice about Ethiopians and why they’re there. So this was an apparent good gesture on the part of the Ethiopians to say we’re not just an occupying force, as the common perception is, but we are also here to help the Somali people,” she says.
The food aid was more symbolic than large. Ryu says, “I would say it was very much a symbolic gesture. In fact, the reports that are coming out are that the Ethiopian soldiers bought the cereal by themselves. I mean they took it from their own pocket and paid for it with their own money. And the reports are about 40 bags of cereal were distributed to about a hundred residents.”
The food distribution was in the Defense Ministry area of Mogadishu. Ryu says the people who accepted the food did not want their identities known. “I spoke to a Mogadishu resident today who said that yes, people did show up, but a lot of them had hid their faces when they went. They put scarves around their faces so that they could not be identified…. There are a lot of desperate people who wanted food, but they’re also scared that they might be targeted for retribution from Islamists, who don’t want the local people dealing in any way with the Ethiopians, regardless of any situation and condition that they might be facing,” she says.