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Somali Food Aid At Risk

An internally displaced Somali girl carries her sibling as they wait to collect food relief from the World Food Program (WFP) at a settlement in Mogadishu August 7, 2011.

New fears arise that some essential food aid, intended for famine victims, is being diverted and subsequently sold in the markets of Somalia.

Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa have rendered an estimated 12.4 million people--including millions of Somalis--in need of immediate, lifesaving assistance. As the international community hurries to reach them, new fears arise that some essential food aid is being diverted and subsequently sold in the markets of Somalia.

Members of the international community have generously donated to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), which moves life-saving food and nutritional products to drought victims in the Horn of Africa. The WFP has systems in place to ensure this aid reaches its intended targets, but there is always a risk that diversion of aid may occur.

This is particularly the case in Somalia where the terrorist group al-Shabaab has created a volatile and challenging environment not only for its own people, but also for the aid workers trying to help them. Two months ago, WFP monitoring systems uncovered small amounts of food intended for drought victims being sold on the markets in Somalia.

It is reprehensible that groups and individuals would take any action that could limit or lessen the flow of life-saving assistance to Somalis who urgently need it. The WFP is investigating these instances and has considerably strengthened its monitoring of aid distribution in the country.

The United States takes seriously any allegation of aid diversion and is supportive of the WFP’s efforts to conduct an investigation as it continues to deliver life-saving food and supplies.

The United States stands with the WFP as it strives to reach a balance between the risk of diversion and the imperative to provide assistance to people whose lives depend on it.