June 22nd, 2007 05:15 EST
UN appeals to Kenya to allow food into Somalia
The United Nations food relief agency today appealed to Kenyan authorities to allow assistance for more than 100,000 people to be trucked into Somalia, where piracy is hampering deliveries by sea.
One hundred and forty WFP-contracted trucks carrying the food left the Kenyan port of Mombasa and were unexpectedly stopped at the Northeast Kenyan border crossing of El-Wak since they first 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,” he warned. The supplies in the trucks are intended to last for three months.
“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,” he said, recalling that Kenya had allowed the agency to use El-Wak since January “because it is the most direct route to southern Gedo, where food assistance is urgently needed.”
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 agency said.
The Nairobi Government has closed its border with Somalia since January to people and commercial traffic, but humanitarian assistance was previously allowed across into the war-ravaged country, where fighting between the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and anti-TFG factions caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes earlier this year.
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, with a total of 150,000 people slated to receive food.