Somalia

Somalia: WFP food reaches tens of thousands fleeing Mogadishu violence

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MOGADISHU - A convoy of trucks contracted by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today thrust out of Mogadishu and delivered enough food to feed at least 32,000 people driven from their homes by some of the worst fighting in the Somali capital in 16 years.

The 9-truck convoy drove west of Mogadishu and unloaded a total of 320 metric tons of food at six sites where tens of thousands of displaced people are sheltering on roadsides. WFP's partner non-governmental organisations immediately began distributing the food to hungry families.

The distributions got the green light from the Transitional Federal Government at a meeting with UN officials on Monday. The TFG said it would cooperate with efforts by UN agencies and NGOs to assist an estimated 340,000 people driven out of Mogadishu by fighting since the start of February.

"WFP is now ready to reach some of the people living in terrible conditions after escaping from Mogadishu," said WFP Country Director Peter Goossens. "I hope that this means humanitarian assistance can now urgently be brought to all those in need."

"Many of these people fled for their lives with just about nothing and are living in very harsh conditions in heavy rain. They urgently need all our assistance now. With the fighting continuing in Mogadishu, they simply cannot return home," Goossens said.

The 320 tons of maize, nutritious corn-soya blend and vegetable oil is enough food to feed 32,000 people for two weeks. But the exact number who received the WFP food would only be known after the distributions and might be greater if smaller rations were given out.

WFP assists more than a quarter of a million people each month in Somalia in areas where there are critical food shortages, but the fighting in Mogadishu, general insecurity, threats against its staff and other obstacles in recent weeks hampered deliveries to the newly displaced.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 58 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP -- We Feed People.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign - For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school - a gift of hope for a brighter future. Visit our website: www.wfp.org

WFP now provides RSS feeds to help journalists keep up with the latest press releases, videos and photos as they are published on WFP.org. For more details see: http://www.wfp.org/english/?n=999.

WFP now has a dedicated ISDN line in Italy for quality two-way interviews with WFP officials.

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi, Tel. +254 7622 179, Mob. +254 733 528 911

Stephanie Savariaud, WFP/Nairobi, Tel. +254 20 7622 336, Cell. +254 733 528 912

Barry Came, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-6513-2411, Mob. +39-3382225382

Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel. +44-20-72409001, Mob. +44-7968-008474

Christiane Berthiaume, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Mob. +41-792857304

Cécile Sportis, WFP/Paris, Tel. +33-1-70385330, Mob. +33-6161-68266

Jennifer Parmelee, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149, Mob. +1-202-4223383

Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Mob. +1-646-8241112, luescher@un.org