WFP Executive Director Sees How Food Saves Lives, Fights Malnutrition In Somalia

Published on 05 April 2011

Calanaley IDP Camp, Somalia -- Twenty-three-year-old Rusea Ahmed Karsha explains how fighting drove her and her five children to flee their home in Mogadishu a month ago.  (Copyright: WFP/Peter Smerdon)

GALKAYO, Somalia – The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, today highlighted the suffering of the Somali people that she witnessed during a visit to a region of Somalia affected by war and deepening drought.

During a two-day visit to central Somalia, Sheeran said enhanced monitoring and controls are helping WFP to better target its food assistance and reach the most vulnerable victims of drought and conflict, particularly women and children. The measures include a hotline for people to report if they don’t receive a full ration and tighter monitoring of assistance in conflict areas.

“We are grateful for all the support from our donors, especially at a time when the Somali people are growing weaker because of drought and violence and needs are rising daily,” Sheeran said. “Make no mistake, your assistance is saving lives and bringing malnourished children back to health.”

Sheeran met women displaced by the drought who told her it was the worst in memory and how their families were destitute because they had lost all their livestock. She talked to women who told how they and their children had fled shelling in Mogadishu and just wanted peace.

“After the dead and maimed, these are the real victims of the war in Somalia. They lost family members, their homes, their jobs, their possessions, their future,” Sheeran said at Calanley camp near South Galkayo. “We must remember their daily struggle to survive and do all we can to alleviate it.”

Rusea Ahmed Karsha, 23, arrived in Calanley from Mogadishu a month ago and met Sheeran on Tuesday. “I and my five children ran from our house near Bakara market when the fighting came,” Karsha said. “I was shot in the hand and hit in the leg. We’ve had no news of my husband since.”

On her first visit to Somalia, Sheeran stressed WFP’s focus on nutrition and innovative responses to hunger in talks with the president of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in the Northeast and with leaders in Galmudug state in central Somalia – the epicentre of the drought.

She explained to officials how recent research has concluded that all new-born babies are born with their brains 60 percent developed and if they fail to receive vital nutrients in the first three years their brains would never recover.