29 January 2013

Somalia: As Peace Returns to Somali Town, UN Food Relief Agency Resumes Assistance

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
Internally displaced persons in Kismayo (file photo). After more than four years, United Nations food assistance has returned to Somalia's southern port city.

More than four years after conflict and pervasive insecurity forced it to shutter its operations in southern Somalia, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has resumed food assistance to the region's port city of Kismayo, the agency announced today.

With relative peace returning to the Horn of Africa nation, WFP managed to conduct an assessment of food security in Kismayo last November only to discover high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity throughout the city.

"It is extremely important that we are again able to work in Kismayo, as our recent rapid food security and nutrition assessment found there is great need," Stefano Porretti, the WFP Representative in Somalia, said.

"The survey showed that almost half the households in Kismayo are really struggling to meet their daily needs, and 24 per cent of children below the age of five are malnourished," he added.

In a news release announcing its return to the area, WFP reported that it was providing hot meals to 15,000 locals at three separate feeding centres while also distributing specialized nutritional support to some 5,000 expectant mothers and children under the age of five. The distribution of cooked food, said the agency, was presumed to be a safer option than supplying dry rations, which are vulnerable to thieves.

Speaking to UN Radio today, Susannah Nicol, a WFP spokesperson, confirmed that the agency was confronting food insecurity in Kismayo through a two-pronged, targeted approach - providing hot meals as well as distributing nutritional support.

"As time goes on," she added, "we will assess the needs and act accordingly."

WFP is currently training local partners to assist it with re-launching its food assistance programmes in the city, while a ship has been dispatched to the area with over 1,100 metric tons of food. According to the news release, that would be enough to maintain the hot meal programme for an initial period of three months and the nutrition programmes for six weeks.

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