Somalia's government has asked the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to release food stocks in Mogadishu for distribution to hundreds of thousands of needy internally displaced persons (IDPs), Interior Minister Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar told IRIN on 19 April.
"I made the request a few weeks ago and up to now we have had no response; life for the people in the camps [mainly on the outskirts of Mogadishu] is getting worse every day," Omar said, adding: "Many families have already run out of food."
He said WFP food should be distributed to them "instead of being locked in a store. People are hungry, yet we have food in stores."
The minister said the Transitional Federal Government would provide security in areas under its control and the food would get to those most in need.
"There should be no fear that this food will be used for anything other than to help the displaced and those most in need," he said.
The country faces a serious humanitarian crisis, with an estimated 3.2 million people, roughly 42 percent of the population, in need of emergency humanitarian assistance and/or livelihood support until June 2010, according to UN agencies.
Two Islamist groups have been fighting government troops, who are supported by African Union peacekeeping troops, in and around Mogadishu, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. In the past few months, the government has been reported to be planning an offensive against the insurgents, but this is yet to happen.
Omar urged WFP to respond urgently. "I hope our partners will listen to our call in order to mitigate the suffering of the people."
However, WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon said distributing all its food stocks in Mogadishu "would only mean that WFP would have no food left to continue ongoing distributions to those most in need in the capital… In addition, WFP would have no food to respond in the event of increased needs caused by any upsurge in fighting."
He said WFP was providing daily hot meals to 80,000 mainly women and children at 16 locations across the city.
An additional 20,000 people in Mogadishu are targeted for regular food assistance by WFP, predominantly through nutrition programmes, he said.
Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Peter Smerdon, WFP spokesman
"Our efforts to increase our work in Mogadishu are hampered by insecurity. In the first two weeks of this month, two missions by WFP staff from Nairobi had to be postponed because of insecurity."
A civil society source in Mogadishu, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that while it was clear that the IDPs needed immediate help, the provision of security during food distribution remained a challenge.
The source said there was no question that the need was greater now than at any time in the past, "and people particularly in the IDP camps and parts of the city are going hungry."
The situation has deteriorated since aid agencies have reduced their presence or "completely withdrew from the camps", the source said, adding that a new way has to be found to help those in need and protect those helping. "The current situation is obviously not working."
The source appealed to the insurgents and the government "to allow unfettered access to those in need".
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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