UN food agency provides meals in Somali capital for first time in 15 years

3 December 2007

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have started providing meals to tens of thousands of people in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in a first since Somalia's 1993 emergency.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners have started providing meals to tens of thousands of people in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in a first since Somalia's 1993 emergency.

The effort, which began on 25 November, aims to provide meals in up to 10 districts with a target of up to 50,000 people each day.

“The depth and scale of the crisis in Somalia is extremely alarming to us all – in some parts acute malnutrition levels surpass emergency threshold levels,” said WFP Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens, adding that the success of the operation demonstrated the determination of WFP and its partner SAACID to reach the hungry despite a multitude of obstacles.

WFP was forced to start what it calls “wet feeding” in Mogadishu after fatal shooting incidents halted distributions of dry rations in the capital in late June. Dried rations, stored in one-month batches in the homes of those using them, are more liable to be looted than prepared meals eaten on site.

Mr. Goossens said insecurity in Mogadishu was also causing the disruption of markets with consequent hyperinflation, while acute malnutrition rates among children under the age of five estimated to be reaching 15 per cent or more.

The agency also continues feeding many of the estimated 600,000 people who have fled Mogadishu this year. Last week, it distributed a one-month ration in the Afgoye area to 180,000 of the displaced.

Given Somalia's pressing needs, WFP is appealing to donors to bridge a $31-million funding gap.

Meanwhile, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes made a brief visit to Somalia today. He travelled to the Afgoye corridor – a 17-kilometre stretch between the town and Mogadishu – where up to 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were said to be camped.

Speaking to reporters after returning to Nairobi, the latest stop on the UN humanitarian chief’s trip which has also taken him to Ethiopia and Sudan, Mr. Holmes described the living conditions of the IDPs as “deplorable,” noting that residents only had the clothes on their backs and lived in rudimentary shelter.

He also reported on a visit to Somalis who were on the front lines of the relief and humanitarian efforts, including Hawa Abdi who, together with her medically trained daughters, has been running a clinic in Afgoye since 1991. Today Dr. Abdi’s clinic provides therapeutic feeding for children and has expanded from 20 to 60 beds to deal with the current crisis.

Mr. Holmes, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, flew to the town of Baidoa, in central Somalia, where he met the new Prime Minister, Nur Hassan Hussein. They agreed on the need for new and better coordination structures between the humanitarian community and the Government, as well as on the need to ensure better protection of civilians.

 

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