Drought and conflict are threatening lives in southern Somalia and forcing refugees to stream across the border into Ethiopia and Kenya.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is aware of Al-Shabab statements calling on humanitarian agencies to resume assistance to vulnerable groups in areas under their control.
People are suffering in southern Somalia, but the conditions to operate safely with the best humanitarian practices and controls have not been in place for some time. WFP has continued to work in Mogadishu and central and northern Somalia, providing food assistance to 1.5 million people.
However, WFP withdrew from areas under Al-Shabab control in southern Somalia at the beginning of 2010 because of threats to the lives of our staff and the imposition of unacceptable operating conditions, including the imposition of informal taxes, and a demand that no female staff work for us there.
With needs so great in southern Somalia, WFP is working with the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator to explore every possibility to return – if conditions allow, and if the necessary security clearance from the United Nations is granted. WFP will also consult with donor governments to ensure that they are comfortable with the complexities and risk associated with any resumption of humanitarian operations.
As a humanitarian agency with a mandate to alleviate hunger, WFP will not stand by while the lives of hundreds of thousands – many of them children – are under threat in southern Somalia.