While the UN shuffles to defend aid to Mogadishu despite the threat of theft, a South African military aircraft will deliver 18 tons of supplies to famine victims in Somalia this week. By KHADIJA PATEL.
Associated Press reported this week that vast quantities of food aid bearing stamps from the World Food Programme, the US government aid agency USAid, the Japanese government and the Kuwaiti government are for sale in Mogadishu markets. According to the report eight different sites were found to be selling thousands of sacks of food in bulk. Other food aid, according to the report was also for sale in numerous smaller stores. The United Nations’ World Food Programme, in response has rubbished the story, insisting the scale suggested by the AP report was simply implausible.
Importantly, however, the UN does admit that a certain amount of food aid is indeed being stolen. A WFP spokesperson in Rome told reporters that stolen food sold in Mogadishu markets amounts to no more than “1% of total assistance”, but the report does bring to light the lack of processes available to aid agencies in Mogadishu to investigate exactly where food aid ends up. In a highly militarised zone where the sound of gunfire is always just around the corner, aid agencies rarely leave their bases. Staff of WFP are said not to venture further than their base near Mogadishu airport.
With the call for aid to Somalia growing stronger still, there is little aid agencies can actually do to assure food reaches the right hands. Last week, the vestiges of the Somali government called for the creation of a new military force to protect food aid convoys and camps in southern Somalia. The call for such a force may have more credence after Reuters reported on Tuesday that Al-Shabaab and Somali government troops as well as African Union peacekeepers were engaged in fierce fighting in northern Mogadishu, prompting doctors and children to flee a hospital that was hit by stray bullets.
South Africa, meanwhile, continues to step up its response to the famine in Somalia and the first demonstration of the South African government response will occur later this week when a South African military aircraft ferries food and medical supplies to Mogadishu on behalf of local aid agency, Gift of the Givers. DM
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