Wednesday, July 08, 2009

WFP suspends food distribution due to bombings in southern Philippines

The U.N.'s World Food Programme has suspended food distribution in the Southern Philippines due to increased bombings there. The food was being given to hundreds of thousands of people displaced because of the fighting in the area. Fighting has increased between a rebel Muslin faction and the Philippine government.

From this Associated Press article that we found at Google News, reporter Oliver Teves tells us why the fighting has escalated, and the WFP's concerns for safety.

The World Food Program acting director for the Philippines, Alghassim Wurie, said the decision to suspend food distribution was made out of concern for the safety of its workers.

Most of the 63 WFP staffers work out of offices in Iligan and Cotabato. They have distributed 13,000 tons (11,780 metric tons) of food supplies to 578,000 displaced by fighting between government troops and Muslim rebels since August 2008.

Fresh clashes erupted last August after the Supreme Court rejected a proposed peace deal that would have expanded an autonomous Muslim region in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation. Malaysian-brokered peace talks were put on hold.

The government estimates there still are about 348,000 people in evacuation centers or staying with relatives.

"The U.N. in particular is very concerned about staff safety, so we decided to suspend our activities during this week to enable us to understand better the reasons behind these problems," Wurie told The Associated Press.

He said he hoped that by the end of the week the security situation will "calm down" and his agency could resume handing out food — mostly rice but also cooking oil, beans and high energy biscuits.

The agency also restricted movement of its staff, advising them to avoid crowded areas, including mosques and churches, said Pia Facultad, a WFP spokeswoman in Manila.

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