Monday, March 01, 2010

WFP food being stopped by Islamic militants in Somalia

The UN's World Food Programme says that militants in Somalia are not allowing food aid to reach thousands. A checkpoint near the capitol of Mogadishu has not allowed the WFP to pass in over two weeks, preventing food aid from reaching over 300,000 people.

The militants claim that they are stopping the food for the benefit of local farmers, but they also say that the WFP is helping whose who have renounced Islam. Somalia currently only grows enough food to feed 30 percent of it's people.

From the Washington Post, Associated Press reporter Katharine Houreld tells us more about the situation.

Trucks carrying food aid have not been allowed to pass through a checkpoint in the Afgooye corridor near the capital of Mogadishu for the past two weeks, WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon said.

Afgooye has the largest concentration of displaced people in the country. It is nominally controlled by the insurgent group Hizbul Islam but allied Islamist group al-Shabab also operates roadblocks there. On Sunday, al-Shabab prohibited WFP from distributing food in areas under its control because it says the food undercuts farmers selling recently harvested crops.

"Somali farmers are having a hard time selling their produce because WFP distributes food aid across the regions and that is demoralizing," an al-Shabab statement said. "The organization has been completely banned."

It also accused the agency of handing out food unfit for human consumption and of secretly supporting "apostates," or those who have renounced Islam.

WFP had already pulled out of al-Shabab controlled areas in southern and central Somalia in January following al-Shabab demands that included the firing of female aid workers, payments for protection and buying food to be distributed from local merchants. WFP says it did not expect the suspension to have a devastating impact immediately because harvests are imminent, but hunger is expected to increase after March unless operations are resumed.

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