WFP appeals to Kenyan authorities to allow food into Somalia

NAIROBI - The United Nations World Food Programme today appealed to Kenyan authorities to allow food assistance on 140 trucks to cross into Somalia. The WFP food is enough to feed more than 100,000 people for three months amid warnings of rising malnutrition in the South.

The WFP-contracted trucks left the Kenyan port of Mombasa and were unexpectedly stopped at the Northeast Kenyan border crossing of El-Wak since the first vehicles started arriving there on 25 May.

"The Kenyan overland route was chosen because of major problems with sea routes to Somalia plagued by pirate attacks," said WFP Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens. "Delays in distributing food this month to 108,000 people in Gedo district risks further aggravating the alarming rates of malnutrition that are already reported there."

"We are in intense contacts with Kenyan authorities to facilitate the passage of this cargo into Somalia so that food distributions can urgently resume in southern Gedo," Goosens added. "Kenya had allowed us to use El-Wak since January because it is the most direct route to southern Gedo, where food assistance is urgently needed. The rains on top of the already very poor road network in Somalia to southern Gedo make using other Kenyan crossing points at Mandera to the north of El-Wak and Liboi to the south almost impossible."

Many of the 140 WFP-contracted trucks had waited so long at El-Wak that they were unloaded in recent days and the food assistance moved to a local warehouse. The Government of Kenya has closed its border with Somalia since January to people and commercial traffic, but humanitarian assistance was previously allowed across into Somalia.

In the coming days, a third round of WFP food distributions to people driven from their homes by fighting in Mogadishu is due to start. A total of 150,000 people should receive food including those who are still displaced, some who have returned to Mogadishu and members of host communities.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) for Somalia warned on June 15 that malnutrition was increasing in the Middle and Lower Shabelle areas of southern Somalia. It reported acute malnutrition rates above the emergency threshold of 15 percent and extremely high severe acute malnutrition rates of 4.9 percent.

It has also warned of a possible crop failure in parts of south and central Somalia because of poor rains.

FSAU said the reasons for worsening food insecurity in Shabelle were the cumulative impact of conflict, insecurity and internal displacement compounded by an epidemic of acute watery diarrhoea, farming losses from floods and three seasons of below normal cereal production.

In Gedo region, which borders on Kenya, acute malnutrition rates of 15-20 percent were reported in April. In 2007, WFP plans to assist more than 1 million people across Somalia.

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

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