WFP forced to halt dry food distribution in Western Liberia

from World Food Programme
Published on 10 Oct 1996
The World Food Programme has stopped distributing dry food rations in parts of strife-torn Liberia because of fear of attack by faction fighters on the civilian population, leaving tens of thousands of hungry people without food.
"The fighters harass the civilians, stealing food and any other commodities they have," said Arnt Breivik, WFP's Country Director in Liberia. "We are worried about the security of our beneficiaries."

Last month, WFP and its partners had distributed two-week rations to almost 40,000 hungry people in Tubmanburg and Cape Mount county. However, recipients had become targets of faction fighters.

As a result, WFP, the United Nation's food aid agency, is now only engaged in limited targetted wet-feeding programs -- where the food is cooked and then given to people on the spot -- in Tubmanburg and Cape Mount County. WFP food is now only reaching about 2,500 people in these areas.

"Although we are very concerned about the malnutrition levels in these parts of Liberia, we cannot put these people at risk," Mr. Breivik said.

On September 28, fighters attacked the town of Sinje, in Cape Mount County, killing some 21 civilians, mostly women and children.

"Even the people themselves have asked us to stop giving them food because they are afraid," Mr. Breivik said.

WFP and its partners are distributing cooked food -- only during daylight hours -- to 600 of the most malnourished people in the Cape Mount county towns of Medina and Vonzula. In Tubmanburg, WFP food is being distributed already cooked to only about 2,000 of the most severe cases, mostly women and children.

"The food is cooked on the spot during the day and then the workers leave when it gets dark," Mr. Breivik said. "That is the only way we can operate at this moment."

The security situation in western Liberia is being assessed daily by the humanitarian community there. As soon as the situation for the civilian population improves, WFP and its partners will again start distributing food rations to thousands of hungry people.

The World Food Programme is the world's largest food aid agency. In 1995, WFP fed more than 50 million people, including half the world's refugees and displaced people.

For further information, contact:

Arnt Breivik WFP Liberia Country Director (231) 226-948, 226-163 Satellite: (874) 685-052-165

Daniela Deane WFP Rome (39-6) 5228-2670 home: (396) 36309309