UN World Food Programme

Entire Generation At Risk In Horn Of Africa, Says WFP Executive Director

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran visits a hospital for the severely malnourished at Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya with French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire.

World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran says WFP is considering every option to reach more than 2 million people who are currently inaccessible inside southern Somalia, including airlifts of food.

NAIROBI--World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran says WFP is considering every option to reach more than 2 million people who are currently inaccessible inside southern Somalia, including airlifts of food.

“Our intention is to reach people as close to their homes as possible,” she said.

"Their first meal in a long time"

On her her visit to the refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, Josette Sheeran holds up a box of BP5 high-energy biscuits, which are provided to new arrivals. For many, these nutrient-packed biscuits are their first meal in days. Watch video

Speaking to reporters in Nairobi on Sunday after visiting three countries in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, Sheeran noted that the long, dangerous trip out of the famine regions in southern Somalia is claiming many lives, particularly of children too young and weakened by malnutrition to survive the journey.

Roads of death

“Over half the women I talked to had to leave children to die, or had children die” during their journeys, Sheeran said.  “These are becoming roads of death.”

“In the Horn (of Africa), we could lose a generation. Those that survive could be affected deeply,” she said. It is particularly critical for young children to get the nutrition they need as their brains develop, Sheeran said.

At the same news conference, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd appealed to others in the international community to step up their support for WFP and other humanitarian agencies as they work to stave off an even worse crisis.

“We either stand back, sit on our hands and do nothing while we wait for the perfect world to arrive, or we get in there and we work now. This will be a complex, dangerous and risky task," Rudd said.

“There is no uniformity in the security situation on the ground,” Rudd added.  “We need to cut the UN some slack.”

“Time is of the essence. We have to have secure and open humanitarian access. This will be a risky situation but we have to get access to those people,” said Canadian Minister of International Cooperation Beverley Oda.  “We cannot stand aside and watch this happening.”

Huge gap

Sheeran said WFP has raised over a million dollars for Horn of Africa relief through online contributions, in addition to more than $200 million in pledges from governments around the world.  But she noted that the funding gap stands at $360 million.

"We are already feeding 1.5 million people in Somalia, but more than 2 million people are for the moment not accessible,” Sheeran said on Saturday in Wajir, northern Kenya.  “Somalia is probably the most dangerous environment in which we are operating today, but people are dying.”