Nairobi: The UN World Food Programme has condemned major obstacles imposed
by various local authorities and militiamen in Somalia while recently
transporting by road 700 tonnes of relief food to southern Somalia
The 24 truck convoy, which departed from the Port of Merca on 17 November
and arrived only yesterday, was delayed at over 40 checkpoints, turning the
typically three-day journey into a 21-day odyssey.
"What should have been a quick and hassle-free operation, has instead taken
three weeks of long and painstaking negotiations," said Robert Hauser, WFP
Country Representative for Somalia. "It is indicative of the extreme
difficulties in conducting relief work in this part of Somalia."
This is the first WFP food convoy to reach Wajid in the Bakool Region since
June when WFP's Baidoa office was closed due to rival faction-leader claims
of authority over the town.
Food stocks that remained in Baidoa were exhausted in September, and the
lack of renewed food supplies over many months has seriously compromised the
food security of the poorest people in the area.
The food aid to be distributed over the next week in the Bay and Bakool
regions will be given to Mother and Child Health Centers (MCH) where WFP
provides food rations to poor families with
malnourished children, reaching some 1,600 families (9,600 beneficiaries).
The food is also being distributed in support of community based
food-for-work projects, benefiting some 12,000 people to whom food is given
in return for work on rehabilitation projects, such as the construction of
Southern Somalia in general suffers from chronic food insecurity.This year,
in the Bakool region, the main harvest was down by more half its pre-war
level. Perpetual food shortages are further aggravated by the prevailing
Food and relief assistance in general is critical over the months ahead,
until at least the next harvest in January. WFP plans to send another convoy
with some 700 MT of relief food within the next couple of weeks. Cooperation
from authorities is crucial to maintain the provision of live-saving food
"Obstructions to the provision of food aid are totally unacceptable," said
Hauser, "We are in the business of saving lives, and this food is urgently
needed. Somalis should be the first to
assist us in getting the relief food to those who need it -- not be the ones
creating difficulties for their own people."