A statement from the U.N.'s World Food Program on allegations of stolen food aid in Somalia:
Food assistance from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and other humanitarian agencies is providing a vital lifeline to the people of Somalia.
WFP is currently targeting food at some 1.5 million people in central and northern Somalia, and is ready to scale up to 3.7 million if it can regain access to areas in the south of the country that are currently inaccessible.
All of the humanitarian agencies in Somalia recognise that this is one of the riskiest operating environments in the world. Donor governments are also aware of the risks of working in Somalia. WFP has developed systems to monitor humanitarian operations because we want to ensure food reaches those in need.
WFP condemns all parties who would use the desperation of the hungry in Somalia to block, attack, or divert live-saving humanitarian supplies for their own benefit.
WFP has put in place strengthened and rigorous monitoring and control in Somalia. However, given the lack of access to much of the territory due to security dangers and restrictions, humanitarian supply lines remain highly vulnerable to looting, attack and diversion by armed groups. Through these monitoring systems possible theft of food has been uncovered.
WFP will investigate all alleged incidents and suspend any parties found responsible.
WFP could consider suspending distributions while the investigations take place, but doing that in Somalia right now would lead to many unnecessary deaths. The scale and intensity of the humanitarian crisis simply does not allow for a suspension of food assistance.
Later, the WFP issued the following statement:
The World Food Programme condemns in the strongest possible terms any actions that would divert even the smallest amount of food from starving and vulnerable Somalis, and we will rigorously investigate any allegations of theft of humanitarian food. WFP underscores the strong controls it has in place, and also the inevitable risks as it seeks to deliver life-saving food to millions of starving Somalis in a dangerous, lawless, and conflict-ridden environment.
WFP is confident that the vast majority of humanitarian food is reaching starving people in Mogadishu and saving lives every day. The Associated Press story alleging that "thousands of bags," have been looted, or stolen, would equal less than one percent of one month's food distribution for Somalia.