UN agency welcomes independent probe into Somalia food aid operations


11 March - The World Food Programme (WFP) said today it would welcome an independent inquiry into its operations in Somalia, after a United Nations monitoring group alleged that contractors have diverted the agency's food aid away from the hungry.

The agency added it would not engage in any new work with three transport contractors named in a report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, which alleged they were involved in arms-trading.

“The integrity of our organization is paramount and we will be reviewing and investigating each and every issue raised by this report,” said Josette Sheeran, the Rome-based agency's Executive Director.

“WFP stands ready to offer full cooperation with any independent inquiry into its work in Somalia.”

Ms. Sheeran noted that vulnerabilities are always present in conflict areas, and many of the issues raised have already been addressed, while other points identified by the UN Monitoring Group conflicted with operational facts and information.

“WFP is requesting the opportunity to correct factual issues and inform the group on actions WFP has already taken,” the agency stated in a news release.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarian workers, and an environment within which WFP has to constantly adjust and revise its operations.

In January, the agency suspended operations across southern Somalia in response to intimidation of its staff and the imposition of a number of unreasonable demands by armed groups that contravened WFP's rules and regulations for delivering food for the hungry.

The assistance of UN agencies such as WFP is critical in the strife-torn Horn of Africa nation, where ongoing drought and civil unrest has left millions in need of humanitarian aid.