Attacks on aid workers and threats to ships delivering food aid to Somalia, coupled with the effects of drought and poor harvest, have left millions in the strife-torn nation in need of urgent aid, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today.
Some 2.6 million people – representing 35 per cent of the population – are believed to be in need of food aid in the country, which has not had a functioning government since 1991. That number is expected to rise to 3.5 million by December.
WFP says that insecurity, drought and successive poor harvests are only worsening the suffering of millions, and pushing thousands more into poverty. Price rises in basic commodities and the weakness of the Somali shilling have only added to the misery.
“Somalia is at a dire crossroads,” Peter Goossens, WFP’s Country Director for Somalia told a news conference today in London. “If sufficient food and other humanitarian assistance cannot be scaled up in the coming months, parts of the country could well be in the grips of disaster similar to the 1992-1993 famine, when hundreds of thousands of people perished.”
Mr. Goossens warned that deteriorating security was hindering land and sea deliveries of food. Some 90 per cent of the food aid distributed to Somalis arrives by sea.
WFP has appealed to countries to provide naval escorts to protect WFP food ships against piracy. France, Denmark and the Netherlands had done so over the last eight months but the agency has received no commitments for further escorts beyond June.
The humanitarian aid operation is also being hindered by a spate of killings or kidnappings of staff from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
WFP has to double the amount of people it feeds from more than one million per month, to 2.4 million by December. CARE International and the International Committee of the Red Cross are to assist the remaining 1.1 million.