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U.S., U.N. Perspectives On Food Aid To Somalia Examined

Emergency food aid to Somalia has been interrupted, partly because of a recent U.S. decision to delay food contributions to the country out of concern that it would end up in the hands of terrorists, U.N. officials said on Friday, the New York Times reports.

About “40 million pounds of American-donated food was being held up in warehouses in Mombasa, in neighboring Kenya, because American officials were not allowing aid workers to distribute it until a new set of tighter regulations was ironed out,” according to U.N. officials. They said the U.S. government “was insisting on guarantees that were unrealistic in Somalia, like demanding that aid transporters not pay fees at roadblocks, which are ubiquitous and virtually unavoidable in a nation widely considered a case study in chaos,” the New York Times writes (Gettleman, 11/6).

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said Saturday that it will run out of food supplies by December, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “WFP’s food assistance supply line to Somalia is effectively broken,” said Peter Smerdon, a spokesperson for the agency. “The pipeline break is partly because [the U.S. government] has delayed U.S. assistance to Somalia,” he said. Smerdon added that a drop in worldwide donations due to the current economic situation and an increased need for aid in East Africa was also contributing to the problem.

According to Laura Tischler, a State Department spokesperson, “Renewal of some U.S. non-food humanitarian programs was delayed while we reviewed conditions on the ground and their impact on our programs.” Tischler said, “U.S. food aid deliveries to Somalia were temporarily suspended while we conducted our review … However, the food aid pipeline for Somalia has not been broken.”

Smerdon said his agency “understands the concern of the United States and other donors regarding the appropriate utilization of resources in Somalia.” He said, “We remain hopeful that the United States will continue to fund food relief programs in Somalia, understanding the difficult and complex political and operational environment in which agencies such as WFP must work” (David, 11/8).

The New York Times reports that U.N. officials “said that even if they wanted to bypass the American government and ship in food from other countries, which would cost millions of dollars, it would be impossible to get it to Somalia in time and that the American sacks of grain sitting in Mombasa were the only solution to averting a widespread famine” (11/6).