African News

Deadly Shooting in Somalia

24 March 2006 at 02:55 | 423 views

Life, it seems, is far from normal in war torn Somalia. This story is eloquent testimony of the travails of this unfortunate country and its people.

After a fatal shooting forced its staff to withdraw from a distribution centre
in southern Somalia, the United Nations World Food Programme has appealed to leaders and militias throughout the faction-torn country to
grant access and protection to aid agencies helping 1.4 million victims of a
worsening drought emergency.

“Continued insecurity and interruptions to assistance have the potential to kill
thousands of Somalis, as surely as bombs and bullets,” WFP country director
Zlatan Milisic said of Tuesday’s fire-fight between two militias at the
distribution centre where agency-contracted trucks were unloading food.

“Targeting humanitarian assistance is totally unacceptable. It is callous and
violates all international humanitarian principles. Humanitarian agencies cannot
operate where assistance is being targeted. We are already seriously challenged
by the logistics of this mission and shouldn’t have to watch our backs as well.
We rely on Somali leaders to guarantee the safety of humanitarian workers and
cargo,” he added.

The trucks were being unloaded in Salagle village in Sakow district when two
local militias exchanged gunfire. At least one local person was killed and
several others were wounded. The distribution was stopped and WFP staff
withdrew.

It was but the latest act hindering humanitarian operations in Somalia, where
overall a total of 2.1 million people urgently need food aid and other support
this year, causing unnecessary suffering, particularly to the most vulnerable -
women and children - WFP said.

A UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) staff member was abducted in southern Somalia on 1
March and released 30 hours later. On 13 March, a WFP-chartered ship managed to
escape during a gun attack by pirates a few hours after unloading WFP food at
Merka.

A spate of ship hijackings off the coast in 2005, including the detention of two
WFP-contracted ships, has slashed ocean transport to the country and forced WFP
to use costlier overland routes to transport food from the port of Mombasa in
Kenya.

Since mid-February, WFP has distributed 7,700 metric tons of food to 470,000
people in southern Somalia. An additional 10,000 tons of WFP food aid for
600,000 people is currently in the country and being transported for
distribution.

WFP has so far received only $73 million out of the $130 million it needs to
feed 1 million people in the south this year. Another 400,000 people in the
south will be fed by the non-governmental organization, CARE.


For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

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