WFP mulls resuming S.Somalia food aid

Published on AlertNet, by Megan Rowling, July 13, 2011.

LONDON (AlertNet) – The World Food Programme WFP is looking at whether it can restart aid operations in southern Somalia, after the hardline Islamist rebels who control the drought-hit region said relief agencies could resume assistance there.

The U.N. food aid agency withdrew from areas under al Shabaab control in southern Somalia at the beginning of 2010 because of threats to its employees, the imposition of informal taxes and a move to keep out female staff. It has continued to work in Mogadishu and central and northern Somalia, providing food assistance to 1.5 million people … //

… SAFETY GUARANTEES:  

The United Nations says some 2.85 million people in Somalia need emergency aid, and in the worst-hit areas one in three children is suffering from malnutrition.

But local analysts in Somalia told Reuters al Shabaab had lifted the aid ban in the south to generate money to fund its war effort. It has previously asked aid agencies to pay a hefty registration fee.

The international humanitarian community has welcomed the announcement with caution, saying the safety of aid workers must be assured.

“We are ready to scale up assistance in southern Somalia but need guarantees that humanitarian workers can operate safely and will not be taxed or targeted,” U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in a statement on Tuesday.

WFP’s Barrow said the agency needs to know what the operating conditions in southern Somalia would be, because it is concerned about the security of its staff, of the food aid it would bring in, and of all the equipment required to support operations, including sub-offices, trucks and storage tents.

The U.N children’s fund, UNICEF, told AlertNet last week it was hoping broad cooperation agreements could be put in place to allow humanitarian efforts to be stepped up.

The agency already has national staff working in southern Somalia, but operating conditions are difficult, said Bob McCarthy, UNICEF’s regional emergency advisor based in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

A relaxation of the restrictions on aid agencies could provide an urgently needed window to stabilise the immediate crisis, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate the longer-term work UNICEF does to support children, he added. (full text).

Links:

The Central Emergency Response Fund CERF;

Aid groups stay away from Somali border town, July 14, 2011.

Explainer: The east Africa food crisis, by Mark Tran, July 12, 2011.

Horn of Africa drought: Kenya row over Somali refugees, July 13, 2011.

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