Somalia Aid Stolen

August 15, 2011 by staff 

Somalia Aid StolenSomalia Aid Stolen, Thousands of sacks of food aid to famine victims in Somalia have been stolen and sold in markets in the same neighborhoods where children skeletal dirty refugee camps cannot find enough to eat, an Associated Research Press has found.

The World Food Program, for the first time acknowledged that it has been investigating the theft of food in Somalia for two months. WFP said the “scale and intensity” of the crisis of hunger does not allow the suspension of aid, saying it would lead to “many unnecessary deaths.”

And help is not yet sure; once it has been distributed to families huddled in makeshift camps around the capital appear. Families at the large, government-run camp Badbaran, where several groups have been distributing food aid, said they were often forced to help return after the journalists had taken pictures of them with him.

Said Ali Nur said he received two sacks of corn twice, but each time was forced to give one to the camp leader.

“You have a choice. You have to give simply no argument to be here,” he said.

The UN says more than 3.2 million Somalis – nearly half the population – need food aid after a severe drought that has been complicated by the long war in Somalia. More than 450,000 Somalis live in famine areas controlled by al-Qaida linked militants, where help is difficult to manage. U.S. Somalis say that 29,000 children under 5 have died.

International officials have long waiting for food aid to Somalia to shed goes missing. However, the magnitude of the theft takes place into question the ability of aid groups’ to reach the hungry. That also raises concerns about the willingness of aid agencies and the government of Somalia to fight corruption, and whether the aid is diverted to feed 20 years of civil war in Somalia.

“While helping the starving people also feed the power groups that make a business out of the catastrophe,” said Joakim Gundel, who runs Katuni Consult, a company based in Nairobi are often asked to evaluate the efforts of international aid in Somalia. “You are saving the lives of people today so you can die tomorrow.”

Somalia country director Stefano Porretti country said the agency’s system of independent third party monitors discovered allegations of diversion of food possible. However, he stressed the danger of the work: WFP has had 14 employees killed in Somalia since 2008.

“Monitoring food assistance in Somalia is particularly dangerous process,” said Porretti.

In the markets of Mogadishu, piles of great food bags are available with seals on them from the World Food Program, the U.S. government USAID support arm and the Japanese government. The AP found that eight sites where there was food aid is sold in small stores in bulk and numerous. Among the items sold are corn, beans and Plumpy’nut – a fortified peanut butter specially designed for starving children.

An official in Mogadishu with a broad knowledge of food trade said he believes a lot of aid is being stolen – perhaps up to half of aid deliveries – by unscrupulous employers. The percentage was lower, he said, but in recent weeks, the flow of aid to the capital with little or no controls has created a bonanza for entrepreneurs.

The official, like the entrepreneurs interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals.

The AP was unable to verify the claims of the officer. The WFP said it rejected the entertainment scale alleged by the official.

In one of the sites of the stolen food aid, a dozen ships of corrugated steel are stacked with sacks. Outside, women sell food to open bags of 110 pounds (50 kilograms), and loading of food in cars or vehicles under the indifferent gaze of the local authorities.

Stolen food aid is not new in Somalia – which is the main reason the U.S. military involvement in Somalia during 1992 famine in the country, an intervention that ended shortly after the military battle known as Black Hawk Down. There are no indications of plans to engage in military efforts against hunger this year.

The WFP said in a statement it has launched “strengthened and rigorous” monitoring and control in Somalia.

“However, given the lack of access to much of the territory due to safety hazards and restrictions, humanitarian supply lines are still very vulnerable to pillage, attack, and the diversion of armed groups,” he told The Associated Press WFP.

Somali government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman said the government does not believe that food aid is grand larceny, but if those reports come to light, the government will “do everything possible” to bring suit.

AP’s investigation also found evidence that WFP relies on a contractor accused of diverting large quantities of food aid in a 2010 report of the UN

Eight Somali businessmen said they bought food for the contractor, Abdulqadir Nur Mohamed, who is known as Enow. His wife Saacid heads a powerful aid agency in Somalia that WFP uses to distribute hot food. The official with extensive knowledge of food trade said in some places Saacid seemed less than half the amount of food provided was being prepared. Attempts to reach Enow or his wife for comment were unsuccessful.

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