WFP Executive Director sounds alarm at lack of security for humanitarian workers in Somalia and Sudan

Published on 19 October 2007

World Food Programme Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, has condemned the continued detention of WFP staff member Idris Osman, who was seized by armed men on Wednesday.

Somalia

World Food Programme Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, has condemned the continued detention of WFP staff member Idris Osman, who was seized by armed men on Wednesday.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the continued detention of WFP staff by the security forces. It has become extremely difficult for us to feed hundreds of thousands of hungry people in Mogadishu and throughout Somalia. We are operating in an environment which is fraught with insecurity -- piracy, banditry and widespread violence. We need the government to protect humanitarian workers.”

Darfur

“As we strive for peace in Darfur, lifesaving work must be carried out every day. This brutal attack on World Food Programme truckers and others like it, severely limit our ability to distribute this vital food assistance. More than three million people are relying on us for their survival.”

Background

· On Wednesday, 17 October, 50-60 uniformed and armed members of Somalia National Security Service (NSS) stormed a UN compound in Mogadishu, and seized Idris Osman, WFP officer-in-charge. They took him to a cell at NSS headquarters, where he remains captive.

· Two WFP officials spoke by telephone with Idris on Thursday, 18 October. He said he was unharmed. WFP has been given no explanation for the reasons behind his detention. · UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has joined WFP in calling for Idris’ immediate and unconditional release.

· On 25 June, WFP was forced to suspend food distribution in Mogadishu after a number of fatal shootings. WFP had resumed food distributions to 75,000 people in Mogadishu on Monday, 15 October.

· In Sudan, a series of attacks on WFP food truck convoys in the last week has resulted in the deaths of three WFP-contracted drivers. Two were shot dead in one incident on 16 October and another died in a second earlier incident on 12 October.

· On Thursday 18 October, another incident occurred near Jebel Mara in South Darfur. According to initial reports, five WFP-contracted trucks were stopped by 20 armed men. Two of the five trucks were stolen along with their cargo of relief food (23 tons).

All the drivers were released, however some sustained injuries. All personal belongings were stolen.

· Since the beginning of this year, WFP has had more than 20 attacks on convoys in Darfur plus many other security related incidents affecting staff and property