UN food agency resumes aid operations in northern Somalia

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has resumed work in northern Somalia after its operations there were temporarily halted following the coordinated series of deadly bomb attacks in the city of Hargeisa late last month that killed two UN staff members.

WFP reported today that it has distributed 522 tons of food - or roughly 45 per cent of the distributions planned for this month - through various projects in the region in the past week. Kitchen cutlery and other utensils were also delivered to 105 schools to help with the school feeding programme.

But ongoing security concerns in northern Somalia means the food deliveries have been slow, according to WFP.

Operations were suspended after a wave of attacks in northern Somalia on 29 October, including a car bombing targeting the UN Development Programme (UNDP) compound in Hargeisa that killed two Somali nationals working for the UN, Mohammed Geele and Sayid Hashi. At least six others were injured.

The UNDP compound also houses other agencies of the world body, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Resident Coordinator.

WFP has also continued its food aid deliveries in south-central Somalia, giving out food to an estimated 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Afgooye corridor of the Lower Shebelle administrative region. A convoy of trucks from Mogadishu, the nominal capital, safely delivered just over 4,000 tons of food to Afgooye.

The agency said it has been able to boost its distribution plans for November across south-central Somalia, despite the current rainy season and the prolonged insecurity across the Horn of Africa nation, which has not had a functioning national government since 1991. This month it is targeting 2.3 million Somalis with some 39,000 tons of food.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that about 25,000 people fled the town of El Waaq last week because of fears that insecurity in the area could worsen, and a majority remain away from their homes and in need of humanitarian assistance.

Somalia is plagued by conflict, drought in some regions and the soaring cost of fuel and basic foods, and UN efforts to bring relief have been hampered by the widespread insecurity and frequent attacks on aid workers.