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WFP Bridges Distribution Gap In Central Somalia

WFP is to set up a field office in the central Somali town of Beletweyne to stream food assistance to over a million people facing hunger caused by drought, conflict and hyperinflation in the region.

By Lamis Anas and Guled Mohamed

BELETWEYNE -- The central Somali regions of Hiraan, Galgadud, Mudug and North Gedo have been hit particularly hard since the middle of last year, when a key NGO was forced to pull out because of insecurity. WFP is now stepping in to bridge the gap, with over a million people in need of assistance.

WFP has just taken over food distributions in the four regions after local elders and authorities signed security assurances to protect WFP staff and local partners in the wake of the killing of two WFP employees within a week in January.

 The new WFP field office in        Beletweyene 

Closer to people

“There is a very large need of food assistance here,” said Kathy Derore, a Programme Officer with WFP, shortly after meeting elders and authorities in Beletweyene to finalize plans for the new office. “We need to be closer to the people who need our help,” Derore said.

The opening of the field office comes after the Somalia Food and Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) identified an urgent need for food and clean water in the area. Malnutrition rates among young children jumped from 14.4 percent to 22.8 percent in 2008.

“These areas that WFP is intending to cover are suffering from drought, influx of displaced people, and a general shortage of humanitarian assistance,” Derore said.

Successive crop failures

Mother of seven Marian Mahamud Hussein, a resident of Beletweyne, used to farm maize and sorghum. A severe drought that hit the area three years ago has wiped out her farm after three successive crop failures, leaving her family entirely dependent on WFP food assistance.

“Our farms have dried up due to this terrible drought and we would really struggle to survive without this help from WFP,” She said standing next to her monthly ration.

Beletweyne was a hive of activity on the day we visited with over 56,000 people, including Marian, receiving their rations. “The new WFP Beletweyne office will help us a lot. We can now receive food on monthly basis. This is good news, we are really happy,” Marian said with a grin.