WFP addresses food aid diversion reports in Mogadishu

A woman holds her malnourished baby as she queues for food at Mogadishu’s Badbado camp for internally displaced people in July 2011, amid one of the country’s worst famines. The World Food Program has drawn scrutiny for alleged misuse of its food aid that was intended for its hot meal feeding sites in Mogadishu. Photo by: Stuart Price / United Nations

The World Food Program said it is addressing shortcomings in the monitoring and implementation of its hot meal feeding programs in Somalia, and has affirmed its commitment to assisting the strife-torn and hunger-stricken country.

“WFP’s own close monitoring of our hot meal program has already identified areas where we can tighten checks and balances at distribution sites to minimize any theft of food,” the program said. “WFP has been in the process of adjusting its hot meals programs to improve their efficiencies.”

The announcement comes as The Associated Press reports of theft and misuse of food aid intended for WFP hot meal feeding sites in Mogadishu. The news agency says it found through a three-month investigation in the Somali capital city that several site operators distribute less food than recorded in their reports to the agency. The Associated Press adds that some WFP supplies are sold to the black market or traders by recipients and managers.

The Associated Press findings were shown to WFP, the news agency says. WFP noted that the investigation was conducted between October 2011 and January 2012, during which WFP’s independent monitoring of the hot meal feeding sites was suspended.

WFP added that its new independent monitoring body did its own investigation after being shown the AP findings. Stefano Porretti, head of WFP in Somalia, said the investigation found “no diversion at the sites.”

Still, WFP said it makes sure donors are updated about the risks of working in Somalia, which is perhaps one of the most dangerous and complicated environment for aid work at present.

“Donor governments are updated regularly on the challenges we face working in complex and insecure places like Somalia,” Porretti told The Associated Press. “They are aware that WFP has to weigh these risks carefully against the danger that lives may be lost if we stop providing life-saving food assistance to vulnerable women and children in places like Mogadishu.”

This is not the first AP investigation to report diversion of food aid in Mogadishu. A report released by the news agency in April 2011 says it found evidence that food aid and other relief items from WFP, United States and other donors were being sold in markets.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.