UN says most Somalia food aid reaching those in need

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The UN's World Food Programme said Tuesday that the "vast majority" of its aid relief to famine-stricken Mogadishu was reaching those in need, in response to claims that some is being stolen.

"The WFP is confident that the vast majority of humanitarian food is reaching starving people in Mogadishu and saving lives every day," WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume told reporters.

Here comments came the day after Somalia's transitional government said it was investigating reports of aid theft, while adding that there were no firm figures on the scale of any such problem.

"The WFP condemns in the strongest possible terms, any actions that would take even the smallest amount of food from starving and vulnerable Somalis, and we will rigorously investigate any allegations of theft of humanitarian food.

"But please remember it is a very dangerous and difficult place to work, it is probably the worst place in the world to work," Berthiaume said, adding that reports of stolen food "would equal less than one percent of one month's food distribution for Somalia."

Lauren Landis, the director of WFP Geneva, said the UN programme had some strict control measures in place to ensure aid reached its proper destination.

"The WFP has worked hard over a number of years to make sure that we have a very strong system of controls in place, because of the very difficult operating environment there," she said.

According to its own figures, the WFP is currently providing food assistance to some 1.5 million people in central and northern Somalia. Berthiaume added that some 5,000 tonnes of food per month was being distributed in Mogadishu alone.

"We have said to the international community, to donors, and to everyone, 'this is difficult and there are risks', but we have no choice," she said.

"The stakes are very high here. It is a question of life and death," Berthiaume concluded.

© 2011 AFP

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