WFP said a Somali partner non-governmental organization started today distributing one-month WFP food rations to 6,000 people who took refuge near a Somali border village after fighting forced them from their homes.
If we are to operate normally and efficiently, we first need peace
Leo van der Velden, WFP’s Deputy Country Director, Somalia
The distribution by the NGO WASDA began on Friday in the southern village of Dhobley and surrounding area to 6,000 people, many women and children, displaced by fighting and 12,000 residents hosting the displaced, therefore also in need of assistance.
Dhobley in Lower Juba region is 18 kilometres east of the last Kenyan border checkpoint at Liboi village. Kenya’s border with Somalia was closed to asylum seekers coming from Somalia on 2 January. No refugees have entered Kenya through Liboi since then.
“These people fled fighting between the Transitional Federal Government, Ethiopian forces and the Union of Islamic Courts and were trapped near Dhobley by the border closure, so it is vital to assist them,” said Leo van der Velden, WFP’s Deputy Country Director for Somalia.
“They are now receiving WFP food aid and efforts are underway to get other assistance to them if they need it,” van der Velden said.
“We are also assisting the host population and hope to be able to reach more people displaced by the fighting in the coming days.”
Van der Velden added that widespread conflict in southern Somalia caused by conflict between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Union of Islamic Courts, was greatly hampering WFP operations in Lower Juba region. This is causing problems for aid agencies as they try to assess how many people are still displaced.
The military operations in Lower Juba mean 190,000 people who are in urgent need of food assistance and other aid cannot be reached in Kismayo, Jamame and Jilib districts.
“If we are to operate normally and efficiently, we first need peace,” van der Velden said.
“Somalia was already suffering badly from the worst drought in a decade followed by the worst floods in years. Now it has renewed war in some of the same areas hit by drought and floods. These people can’t resist this kind of pressure and need our help.”
Dhobley last received WFP food at the end of November, before the conflict escalated.
WFP is preparing on both sides of the border for an influx of Somalis into Kenya once the border is reopened. Despite new asylum-seekers being barred from Kenya, some WFP-contracted trucks loaded with food were allowed to cross into Somalia from Liboi, but others were stopped at the border.
The UN Common Air Services, which is managed by WFP, resumed passenger and cargo flights to the Somali capital Mogadishu on 8 January – the first scheduled flights since a decision by the TFG on 26 December to close Somalia’s land, air and sea borders.
Despite the conflict, WFP and its partners completed a distribution in Buaale district in the south on 7 January of 1,215 tons of food to 59,000 people.
A total of 235 tons of food was distributed to 12,600 people in Gedo district bordering on Kenya this week. In addition, 10,000 people in Sakow and Salagle districts received 208 tons of WFP food.
Nine boats hired by WFP to ferry food to people stranded by the floods resumed work this week in Buaale. They have delivered a total of 200 tons of food since 13 October.
WFP has international and national staff in Wajid, its logistics hub in the south, and more than 100 national staff in Somalia, where WFP has 15 offices. Three WFP offices in the south are closed because of the fighting. WFP has been unable to resume helicopter deliveries of food to flood-affected areas from the southern port of Kismayo.
Before the latest conflict, WFP aimed to provide 1.2 million people in Somalia in 2007 with emergency relief food and almost another million people with other assistance such as school feeding, Food for Work, Food for Training and support to Mother and Child Health clinics.
The top five donors to WFP’s Protracted Relief and Rehabilitation Operation for Somalia last year were the United States, Britain’s Department for International Development, the Netherlands, the European Union and Saudi Arabia. WFP still needs at least US$40 million for its work in Somalia in 2007.