The conflict in southern Somalia is preventing the World Food Programme (WFP) from delivering food to up to one million people in the region, the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Recent attacks, threats, harassment and demands for payments by armed groups have decimated the humanitarian food lifeline," the agency said, making it "virtually impossible" to reach vulnerable civilians who needed food. "WFP is deeply concerned about rising hunger and suffering among the most vulnerable due to these unprecedented and inhumane attacks on purely humanitarian operations."
The full text of the WFP statement follows:
Rising threats and attacks on humanitarian operations, as well as the imposition of a string of unacceptable demands from armed groups, have made it virtually impossible for the World Food Programme (WFP) to continue reaching up to one million people in need in southern Somalia.
WFP's humanitarian operations in southern Somalia have been under escalating attacks from armed groups, leading to this partial suspension of humanitarian food distributions in much of southern Somalia.
WFP is deeply concerned about rising hunger and suffering among the most vulnerable due to these unprecedented and inhumane attacks on purely humanitarian operations.
WFP is continuing to provide life saving food distributions in the rest of the country, including the capital, Mogadishu, reaching more than two-thirds of the hungry it has been targeting - or 1.8 million people. In addition, resources and relief workers are being re-deployed from southern areas in the event that people start moving away from areas where food distributions have been suspended.
WFP is an impartial, non-political humanitarian agency that has been working in partnership with the people of Somalia for more than 40 years, providing assistance to the poorest of the poor throughout Somalia’s years of conflict and before. The recent pressures on our work from armed groups in southern Somalia are impeding our humanitarian mandate.
Even in good years, Somalia is only able to meet 40 per cent of the food needs of its population through internal production. In the last five years, local production has averaged only about 30 per cent of food needs in Somalia. WFP’s operation in Somalia is fully funded in the coming months to reach all the projected beneficiaries.
WFP is working closely with its partners to pre-position supplies and prepare to provide assistance to any population movements either within Somalia, or across the country's borders into neighbouring countries.
WFP’s offices in Wajid, Buale, Garbahare, Afmadow, Jilib and Belet Weyne in southern Somalia are temporarily closed, and food supplies and equipment have been moved, along with staff, to safer areas in order to ensure that food assistance continues to reach as many vulnerable people as possible.
Staff safety is a key concern for WFP and recent attacks, threats, harassment and demands for payments by armed groups have decimated the humanitarian food lifeline, making it virtually impossible to reach up to up to one million woman and children and other highly vulnerable people.