Somalia: WFP starts food distributions in battle-scarred Mogadishu

MOGADISHU - The United Nations World Food Programme said today that the first distributions of WFP food assistance had started in Mogadishu to 16,000 residents and people returning to districts most heavily damaged by the worst fighting in the Somali capital in 16 years.

By the end of this week, WFP expects to have distributed food since 27 April to a total of 114,000 people who fled the city plus vulnerable people unable to escape the fighting. Urgent WFP food distributions continue to be expanded given the prevailing security situation in and around the capital.

Yesterday, a Somali non-governmental organisation started distributing WFP maize, nutritious corn-soya blend and vegetable oil to 7,000 people at three sites in Mogadishu. Distributions are due to start today at another five sites to reach 9,000 others in the capital. WFP on Tuesday also plans to start distributing five tons of food to hospitals in Mogadishu for 1,500 people injured in the fighting.

"These people are exhausted," said WFP Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens in Nairobi. "Most of them are women and they were either forced to flee their homes with their children during the recent fighting or they stayed in the city throughout the worst bombardments. These families require food and other assistance after their terrible ordeal."

"We started in the heaviest damaged areas in north Mogadishu, where the fighting was concentrated. But we are also reaching many of those who are still outside Mogadishu and are too frightened to return, but are struggling in terrible conditions under trees in the rain," he said.

Distributions of WFP food to 42,000 people displaced southwards from Mogadishu to the port of Merka were completed on Sunday and 9,000 displaced in Qoryoley district to the southwest of the capital received WFP food on Monday. Distributions to 13,500 people in Brava town are due to start on Wednesday. In late April, WFP food was distributed to 32,000 displaced west of the capital shortly before heavy fighting ended in Mogadishu on 27 April.

WFP needs an extra US$10 million in donations for its operation due to the fighting in Mogadishu and displacement of civilians. UNHCR estimates that 395,000 people fled the city - over a third of the capital's population - since 1 February. But following the end of heavy fighting, some are now trickling back.

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..

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