Hunger in the news

28 January 2009

A delegation from the UN's World Food Program visited a provincial capital in central Somalia for the first time Wednesday since Islamists returned to power, Radio Garowe reports. The four-member delegation was led by Ms. Denise Brown, the WFP deputy country director for Somalia. [...] Sources close to the discussions told Radio Garowe that the WFP officers expressed concern about targeted killings and the safety of aid workers, while noting that humanitarian efforts will continue in the region.

27 January 2009

The search for a government – any kind of government – to bring order to Somalia is growing increasingly desperate as warring Islamist factions, tribal clans and bandit gangs exploit a power vacuum created by this week's Ethiopian troop withdrawal. Just when it seemed the plight of Somali civilians could not get any worse, it did. Aid workers and human rights groups are not mincing words: catastrophe is just around the corner. [...] Even if the outside world suddenly wanted to do more on the ground, the inherent difficulties have become formidable after years of relative neglect. The World Food Programme said earlier this month that it might have to suspend food distribution after two of its employees were murdered.

26 January 2009

The world's economic woes cannot be allowed to eclipse other key priorities, including protecting people from climate change and feeding the hungry, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Monday. In an interview ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Annan also condemned recent fighting in Gaza as "appalling" and said the piracy near Somalia served as another warning of the risks of letting simmering crises fester. Referring to estimates from humanitarian agencies that the global food crisis could push 100 million more people into hunger, Annan said: "One hundred million starving people are as urgent as some of the issues we are fully focused on."

24 January 2009

The United Nations considered suspending delivery of food to areas of Somalia after the recent killings of two aid workers, said a spokesman for the organization's World Food Program. Gunmen shot and killed the workers in early January, causing the U.N. agency to worry about the safety of its staff. "We initially considered suspending WFP food distributions until security improves," said Ramiro Lopes da Silva in a statement released this week. "But such a step would hurt the very people we seek to help, especially women and children suffering the most from this merciless conflict." The agency still plans to deliver enough food to feed 2.5 million people in the next two months, but aid workers had concerns about their safety, Lopes da Silva said.

23 January 2009

Uganda and Burundi have put two battalions on standby to send to war-torn Somalia to fill the gap left by withdrawing Ethiopian troops, a Ugandan army spokesman said Friday. "There is no time framework under which we will send our soldiers there," Major Felix Kulayigye told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "We have a battalion ready, and it is just a matter of waiting for the logistics and then we will go." Ethiopia is pulling its forces out of Somalia after a two-year occupation that has failed to defeat Islamist forces, reported dpa. [...] The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday that it might have to stop distributing food in Somalia if the safety of its staff cannot be guaranteed. Two WFP aid workers were shot in early January, adding to another five killed last year.

22 January 2009

The United Nations will be forced to end food distribution in Somalia unless armed groups there stop attacking U.N. staff, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday. Humanitarian workers have repeatedly been targeted during a two-year-old rebellion by Islamist insurgents that has killed more than 16,000 civilians and uprooted one million others. Four WFP staff have been killed since August last year. Peter Goossens, WFP country director for Somalia, said the U.N. agency was distributing about 57,000 metric tonnes of food to southern and central regions that he said would feed some 2.5 million people until around mid-February. "That is it basically," Goossens told a news conference in neighbouring Kenya.

22 January 2009

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has said it is seeking a secure operating environment from all local administrations and armed groups in South and Central Somalia to allow the agency to continue providing life-saving assistance in the wake of the killings of two WFP staff. "Our only goal in Somalia as an impartial international organisation is to alleviate the suffering of the Somali people," said WFP Deputy Chief Operating Officer Ramiro Lopes da Silva. "We cannot do that when our courageous staff are being targeted." Expressing outrage at the killings by gunmen on January 6 and 8, Lopes da Silva said WFP considered, but opted not to suspend food distributions in South and Central Somalia because this would only increase the suffering of innocent people during a possible power struggle after the pullout of Ethiopian forces.

22 January 2009

The UN's food agency said Thursday it needed guarantees on its employees' security in Somalia, hinting it could soon halt deliveries in some areas. Four World Food Programme (WFP) employees have been killed in the war-torn Horn of Africa country since August last year, two of them this month. "We will not stop food distribution yet but (sic). We will distribute all the food that we currently have inside Somalia" or on its way there, WFP chief Peter Goossens said at a press conference in Nairobi. The WFP said it was in the process of delivering 57,000 metric tonnes of food in southern and central Somalia, enough to feed 2.5 million people for one to two months.

22 January 2009

The World Food Programme has halted its food shipments to Somalia in a high-stakes attempt to press local warlords to rein in violence that has killed two of its employees this month. Peter Goossens, Somalia country director of the United Nations agency, said the WFP would distribute the food left in its Somali warehouses but he warned that it would run out by early March if it was not replenished by fresh shipments. He said the WFP would only reopen its “pipeline” – a reference to the sea and land routes through which it ships food from the Kenyan port of Mombassa – when it had received security guarantees from local administrations, warlords and armed militias that control the areas where it operates. It is a high-risk move for the agency because the difficulty of pacifying highly fragmented armed groups is one reason why Somalia has become a lawless and destitute failed state since its central government collapsed in 1991.

19 January 2009

The NATO secretary general on Monday praised the Chinese navy's anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and indicated NATO's willingness to work with China on the issue. [...] NATO deployed four warships off Somalia in October to escort World Food Program food shipments to Somalia and to patrol the seas to deter piracy. Its mission ended in December. But the alliance is considering a long-term strategy on the piracy issue and stands ready to consider further requests for the use of its naval assets in this regard.