[Dehai-WN] (IPS): Food aid meant for famine victims are being stolen as widespread corruption plague international efforts in Somalia

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Sep 05 2011 - 09:40:21 EDT

Food aid meant for famine victims are being stolen as widespread corruption
plague international efforts in Somalia

Sep 5th, 2011

ms/> (IPS) - Masses of food meant for famine victims in Somalia are being
stolen, an investigation has revealed. "There is widespread food aid
corruption, that is why I am calling for the establishment of a special food
aid monitoring group - this must include Somalis and the foreigners
themselves," Somali member of parliament Prof. Ali Mahmoud Nur told IPS. The
Somali government intends to fire all of Mogadishu's 16 district
commissioners amidst reports of food aid theft and insecurity. The
government is planning to set up a special police force tasked with
providing security during food aid distribution. These measures were
revealed as there have been recent reports of rioting and killings during
food distribution at camps for famine victims. But it may not be enough to
prevent the theft of food aid and there have been calls for government to
set up a food aid corruption prevention unit.

Each day tonnes of food aid arrives in Mogadishu from across the world for
the famine victims. At least five cargo flights from Turkey and Kuwait
arrive daily and other countries like Djibouti, Sudan, and Iran have also
sent aid. Mercy USA, Diakonie Emergency Aid Bread for the World - Germany
and the United Nations Refugee Agency are among the agencies distributing
aid in the capital. But Nur says the theft of food aid is so widespread that
a special food aid monitoring group needs to be formed. Nur, a Somali-born
U.S. citizen, has close ties with both the country's Speaker of Parliament
Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden and President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed. He told IPS
that he has personally investigated reports of aid corruption. Over 100,000
people have fled the drought and famine in southern Somalia to the country's
capital in search of food and aid in the last few months. Many walked for
weeks on foot, without food or even water, losing loved ones and children
too weak or malnourished to survive the arduous journey. And those who
survived arrived at the capital weak and malnourished. The U.N. estimates
that the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mogadishu is
currently around 470,000.

But their hope of finding aid in Mogadishu has diminished as officials are
now involved in the theft of food aid. "It is very clear that some officials
are involved in food aid corruption here - I am calling on them to stop such
bad behaviour or otherwise they will damage their dignity," Nur said.
Addressing a peaceful demonstration in Mogadishu on Aug. 23, Somali Prime
Minister Abdi Weli Mohamed Ali and the region's governor, Mahmoud Ahmed Nur,
admitted that food aid was being stolen in some areas in the capital and
promised to address this. One government official, who demanded anonymity,
told IPS that the government intends to fire all Mogadishu's 16 district
commissioners. The district commissioners have been accused of numerous
crimes including colluding with the foremen of the refugee camps to steal
aid. However, no one has been officially charged yet.

In Mogadishu the district commissioners are powerful former clan militiamen
appointed by the government for their standing among the local clans. They
are a law unto themselves. On Sep. 3 in the district of Bulohubey, in
Mogadishu, the local district commissioner Ahmed Adow Anshur's (better known
as Ahmed Daai) militia clashed with the Transitional Federal Government
soldiers. Three government soldiers were killed. Sources say that it seems
highly unlikely that the country's transitional government will be able to
fire the district commissioners as some are 'powerful warlords'. But
Abdullahi Mohamed Shirwa, who heads the Somali government's Disaster
Management Agency (DMA), which is tasked to coordinate aid efforts in
Mogadishu, believes that the food aid is properly managed.

Most international aid agencies distribute the aid themselves while the DMA
manages the food donated by various international governments. "There were a
few tonnes of food assistance from Kuwait which was delivered to the IDPs
through my agency - I can confirm to you that we have managed it well and
made sure that it got into the hands of the really needy people," he said,
adding that the food aid coming to Somalia can only meet about 10 percent of
the country's needs. But he acknowledged that mistakes were made at some IDP
camps in Mogadishu. On Aug. 22 three famine victims were killed at an IDP
camp in Waberi district in Mogadishu, while four others were wounded as
government forces fired on them during food aid distribution. Waberi is the
first port of call in Mogadishu for refugees fleeing their homes in the
drought-stricken south. But it is not the first incidence where people were
killed during a food riot. Ten people were killed on Aug. 5 during a riot at
Badbaado camp - the city's largest camp for refugees.

Shirwa admitted that there were reports of looting and theft of food aid at
some camps in Mogadishu, but he believes that about 95 percent of the food
aid has been properly managed. And he said those issues will be resolved
soon as the Somali government has established a special security police
force whose responsibility will be to tighten the security of food aid at
the camps. The food security forces will start their operations as soon as
possible, said Shirwa. But he could not give IPS a date when this would
happen. He added that food security forces would work both day and night in
routine operations around the IDP camps and streets in the capital to ensure
the smooth continuation of humanitarian operations. Soldiers are currently
stationed around the aid distribution centres, but gangs, and even some
government forces, have been accused of stealing food aid from famine
refugees despite this security. Amina Yusuf, a mother of four who lives at
the Waberi district IDP camp, told IPS that armed men always rob them of
their food. "Robbing of food aid occurs here at least two times a week - we
don't know what to do," Amina said.

But it is not just in Mogadishu that food is not reaching people in need.
The Somali government's relief inspector for Mogadishu and two of the worst
drought-hit southern regions, Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle, Mahmoud
Dahir Farah, said that his office had gathered evidence that food aid is not
being properly managed. Farah, who is appointed by the Somali government to
coordinate the relief operations in these regions, said unfortunately people
in need were not receiving food aid as intended. "I am calling on the top
Somali leaders to tackle this problem, because the food aid distribution is
corrupted by the administrators in Mogadishu districts - this is a great
problem, which has to be solved as soon as possible," he said. He also
demanded that the government soldiers who killed IDPs at the Badbaado camp
early this month and in Waberi district on Aug. 22 be brought before a
court. The U.N. has estimated that more than 3.6 million people in Somalia
are currently in need of emergency humanitarian assistance as the region is
in the midst of the worst drought in 60 years.


Women queue for food in somalia



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