- (Reuters/Feisal Omar)
An investigation report has been released announcing that thousands of sacks of food meant for Somalia’s drought- and famine-impacted victims have been stolen.
The report, released by The Associated Press, suggests that stolen food aid is being diverted from the people and sold in markets across the capital in Mogadishu, where most individuals cannot afford to purchase it, particularly those that have fled the southern Al-Shabaab controlled region of the country.
In Mogadishu markets food can be found for sale with stamps on them indicating they were sourced from USAID, the UN’s World Food Program, as well as the Japanese government.
Even displaced families in makeshift camps across Mogadishu are not necessarily receiving their food aid as camp leaders or criminals loot them of their much needed foodstuffs once they receive them.
One official in Mogadishu told AP that he believed that up to half of aid deliveries are being diverted from going into the hands of Somalis and are going into the hands of corrupt businessmen.
The diversion in food aid on such a scale is raising questions about the ability of aid agencies to actually reach the vulnerable Somali population, especially considering the scale of the looting.
The World Food Program has responded to the investigation and has released a statement on the aid inquiry, saying, “WFP condemns all parties who would use the desperation of the hungry in Somalia to block, attack, or divert lifesaving humanitarian supplies for their own benefit.”
The statement continued, “WFP has put in place strengthened and rigorous monitoring and control in Somalia. However, given the lack of access to much of the territory due to security dangers and restrictions, humanitarian supply lines remain highly vulnerable to looting, attack, and diversion by armed groups. Through these monitoring systems possible theft of food has been uncovered.”
The organization has vowed to investigate incidents and suspend parties found responsible for diverting, looting, and stealing aid.
The WFP also added that due to the “scale” and “intensity” of the famine that food aid should not be suspended to the country as thousands are at risk of starvation, are fighting off malnutrition and diseases, and are living on the brink of death.
The diversion of humanitarian aid is nothing new and has been witnessed in war settings across the world for decades. However, the scale of the diversion is raising concerns that the food aid is actually participating in fueling Somalia’s long-standing civil war.
The aid diversion is also raising questions about the lack of timely and effective response by the international community that knew that famine was a likelihood in Somalia over one year ago, and could have perhaps both averted the crisis and the waste with prior planning.