UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations called for more international help for famine-struck Somalia on Monday — even as the organization's World Food Program admitted for the first time it has been investigating the theft of food aid for more than two months.
Thousands of sacks of stolen aid had popped up for sale in markets alongside refugee camps filled with starving people living in appallingly filthy conditions, according to an investigative report by The Associated Press.
But WFP warned that the 'scale and intensity' of the famine is such that countries need to continue to send aid — and failure to do so would lead to 'many unnecessary deaths.'
The wider UN call for more help Monday came from the UN Security Council, which gets involved in issues that are additionally considered to pose a threat to international peace.
Long considered to be a failed state, Somalia has since 2006 faced an insurgency led by al Shabab, a fearsome militant Islamist group that has been affiliated with al-Qaida since 2007.
Somalia has also had no effective government since the downfall of the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, while pirate gangs have for more than five years been a major threat to international shipping off the country's coast.
But in its statement seeking increased international donations, the 15-member Security Council told Somalia's struggling transitional government that future support was conditional on its ability to boost security and services over the next year.
Somali political groups — excluding the insurgents — are to meet next month to establish a government 'roadmap' for the next 12 months that would set targets for improving the performance of the transitional federal institutions — or TSIs.
'The members of the Security Council noted that future support to the TSIs would be contingent upon the completion of the tasks of the roadmap,' said the council statement, read by Hardeep Singh Puri, UN ambassador of India, which presides over the council this month.
The UN's $2.4 billion famine appeal remains less than half funded as the world body warns 3.2 million people are on the brink of starvation. The already catastrophic situation is expected to worsen because of high levels of malnutrition, still rising cereal prices and a below-average rainy season harvest.
Expressing the 'serious concern' of Security Council members that the appeal is not fully funded, the body's statement 'urged members states to contribute.'
WFP said it had established 'strengthened and rigorous' monitoring and control of food distribution in Somalia after The Associated Press report.
While it disputed AP's claims about the scale of the thefts, program officials nevertheless admitted that humanitarian supply lines remained 'highly vulnerable to looting, attack and diversion by armed groups.'
More than 450,000 Somalis live in famine zones controlled by al Shabab, which the monitoring group Human Rights Watch said in a report Sunday had seized what stocks families had, and imposed taxes that made it almost impossible for them to survive.
The report added, however, all other parties in the country's armed conflict had also committed serious violations of the laws of war, including the Transitional Federal Government, the African Union peacekeeping forces known by the acronym AMISOM, and Somali militias backed by Kenya and Ethiopia.'All sides have used artillery in the capital, Mogadishu, in an unlawful manner that has caused civilian casualties,' the report said. 'Al Shabab has fired mortars indiscriminately from densely populated areas, and the TFG and AMISOM forces have often responded in kind with indiscriminate counterattacks. As a result, civilians have not known where to turn for protection.'
Source: The Gazette