Somali opposition group al-Shabaab to block WFP food aid

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Al-Shabaab, the Somali opposition group, has said it will stop food operations by the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) in the country, accusing the agency of being politically motivated and disadvantaging local farmers.

Al-Shabaab said that the agency was ruining local farming, as the quantity of the food aid didn't allow farmers to sell their goods at reasonable prices.

A statement from the group read that "[g]iven the problems caused by the food WFP distributed, the movement of Shabab Al-Mujahideen banned the operations of the agency in Somalia generally starting from today. The contractors working with WFP must avoid collaborating [...] anyone working with the agency will be seen serving the interest of WFP."

The WFP, meanwhile, says that armed members of al-Shabaab have blocked off food aid to refugee camps in the city of Afgoye.

Peter Smerdon commented on the move to the BBC, saying: "The WFP is extremely concerned about the health of the displaced families who rely on humanitarian assistance reaching them. The people in Afgoye last received a general food distribution from WFP in November 2009, so we fear that they are going very hungry."

"We fear they are suffering even more because food assistance cannot reach them, and some of them may be forced to leave Afgoye as conditions in the camp deteriorate," he added. A statement released by the WFP claims that its motivations in Somalia were "impartial and non political". On the agency's official website, the WFP describes Somalia as being "one of the most dangerous places in the world", and having "the highest humanitarian need for the size of its population".

The official Somali government does not control much of the country outside of the capital Mogadishu; many areas in southern Somalia are controlled by al-Shabaab.

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