Somali famine aid stolen

2011-08-15 18:54

Mogadishu - Thousands of sacks of food aid meant for Somalia's famine victims have been stolen and are being sold at markets, depriving the Somalis who have flooded into the country's capital of urgently needed sustenance, an Associated Press investigation has found.

The UN's World Food Programme for the first time acknowledged it has been investigating food theft in Somalia for two months. The WFP said that the "scale and intensity" of the famine crisis does not allow for a suspension of assistance, saying that doing so would lead to "many unnecessary deaths".

The UN says more 3.2 million Somalis - nearly half the population -need food aid after a severe drought that has been complicated by Somalia's long-running war.

More than 450 000 Somalis live in famine zones controlled by al-Qaeda-linked militants, where aid is difficult to deliver. The US says 29 000 Somali children under the age of 5 already have died.

International officials have long expected some of the food aid pouring into Somalia to go missing. But the sheer scale of the theft taking place calls into question aid groups' ability to reach the starving.

It also raises concerns about the willingness of aid agencies and the Somali government to fight corruption, and whether diverted aid is fuelling Somalia's 20-year-civil war.

"While helping starving people, you are also feeding the power groups that make a business out of the disaster," said Joakim Gundel, who heads Katuni Consult, a Nairobi-based company often asked to evaluate international aid efforts in Somalia. "You're saving people's lives today so they can die tomorrow."

Vast piles of food sacks with stamps on them from the World Food Programme, the US government aid arm Usaid and the Japanese government are for sale in Mogadishu markets.

Half of aid deliveries

The AP found eight sites where aid food was being sold in bulk and numerous smaller stores. Among the items being sold were corn, grain, and Plumpy'nut - a specially fortified peanut butter designed for starving children.

An official in Mogadishu with extensive knowledge of the food trade said he believes a massive amount of aid is being stolen - perhaps up to half of aid deliveries - by unscrupulous businessmen.

The percentage had been lower, he said, but in recent weeks the flood of aid into the capital with little or no controls has created a bonanza for businessmen.

The official, like the businesspeople interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals.

At one of the sites for stolen food aid, about a dozen corrugated iron sheds are stacked with sacks. Outside, women sell food from open 50kg sacks, and traders load the food onto carts or vehicles under the indifferent eyes of local officials.

Stolen food aid is not new in Somalia - it's the main reason the US military become involved in Somalia during the country's 1992 famine, an intervention that ended shortly after the military battle known as Black Hawk Down.

There are no indications the military plans to get involved in this year's famine relief efforts.

WFP said in a statement that it has put into 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," WFP told the AP.

  • Tony - 2011-08-15 19:00

    Anyone found stealing aid food should be chopped up and put into pies!

      Jasber - 2011-08-15 19:19

      Hey - would you eat one of those pies - feed them to the crocodiles

      Nico - 2011-08-15 20:01

      I agree. But what if they steal the pies too???

      Peg-Leg-Sven - 2011-08-15 20:23

      Funny enough, there was a shop in London that sold pork-pies that were made from the bodies of paupers and won a prize for best local pork-pies. It was quite a scandal.

  • Lewsi - 2011-08-15 19:06

    This is be expected.

      Macho Mike - 2011-08-15 19:55

      Agreed. And little wonder that people do not want to give, because you cannot be certain your donation will end up where it should. Life in Africa is a steal.........

  • Popit - 2011-08-15 19:15


  • Jasber - 2011-08-15 19:16


      Proefeet - 2011-08-15 19:48

      So how much exactly did you donate, JASBER?

      Anton - 2011-08-15 20:00

      Proefeet, Well said !! Many on these "famine sites" just try to justify their unwillingness to donate

      daaivark - 2011-08-16 09:17

      Spot on Proefeet! The attitudes of many here are sick beyond belief. Self-righteous, abusive and greedy.

  • Enough - 2011-08-15 19:18

    Maybe our honourable President can get the AU, like he suggested in Libia, to sort this - common show some real leadership? PS. send your number one diplomat Juju, he seems to have some excellent solutions for places like Botswana. Fact finding mission......

  • vaughn.l.jacobs - 2011-08-15 19:22

    Welcome to AFRICA, have a very nice day......!

  • Ho - 2011-08-15 19:25

    Its'the white man's fault...

      Enough - 2011-08-15 19:27

      Your Funny, ok let's blame the USA, Brittian, about doing something for yourself.

      vaughn.l.jacobs - 2011-08-15 19:54

      Agree, was my fault, just waiting for a certain Mr Rich JM to explain again why .....

  • Hunter 008 - 2011-08-15 19:25

    It's a moslem country !! They don't steal !!!

      Shane - 2011-08-15 19:47

      Must just be a rumour.

      Gibbonater - 2011-08-16 09:05

      Thats true. These are upstanding people. They care for the poor and hungry. ha, ha, ha.

  • An0nThoughts - 2011-08-15 19:30

    It's heart wrenching to see humans do this to each other. That they'd steal food from the mouths of starving, dying children for their own monetary gain.

  • BOFFINBOB - 2011-08-15 19:40

    I hope my 4 tins of baked beans got through ok.

      Shane - 2011-08-15 19:47

      Rahter give them to your local citizens in need.

      vaughn.l.jacobs - 2011-08-15 19:56

      ....or use them in the next labour strike(... or is it current) to throw through a window, makes a lovely noise

      daaivark - 2011-08-16 09:18

      vaughn. Your apology for a sense of humour is disgusting.

  • jen - 2011-08-15 19:42

    Where is MobBim? He blamed the USA for the drought and famine - he was dead serious. I wonder what his take on this is.

  • Deset Rat - 2011-08-15 19:44

    Somalia must be in Africa, so whats new?

  • Shane - 2011-08-15 19:45

    There is more than enough aid needed for our own South African people before we go and support some other country in need. Did all of those of you donate to Somali to have your name read out on SABC as I cannot imagine why you would dontae money to them to get stolen while there are so many people in South Africa in desperate need.

  • fconnection - 2011-08-15 19:51

    i rest my case . Why bother helping them just a waste of time

  • gatvol4corru - 2011-08-15 19:55

    UBUNTU? Just like SA! Steal from the poor

  • grant9 - 2011-08-15 21:10

    I kind of wish this had happened in the 1980s so the western countries that were putting pressure on us could have seen what we were up against. I've always been sceptical about liberals like Bob Geldoff and Band Aid who were raising money for the starving in Africa for a number of reasons : How much of the money raised reached the starving? Why didn't wealthy African countries sort out the problem? There's always enough money to fight wars. Film footage always showed thin and dying children but their parents looked well fed enough. I wasn't sure if Band Aid was doing it just for the hungry or if they wanted fame and have good party. I'm sure none of them were out of pocket after the constant release of that stupid record. A theory of mine is that the children saved in 1984 would have produced two generations since then. No schools, no employment, just poverty, disease and war.

  • grant9 - 2011-08-15 21:13

    @ Boffinbob. I believe those tins of baked beans caused quite a stink :-)

  • beicime - 2011-08-15 22:00

    Who says that Western Countries are screwing up Africa? Africa needs no help to screw itselself. Western Countries have been saving Africa for decades.

  • Gibbonater - 2011-08-16 09:02

    Viva africa viva, viva the hungry viva. Yet the west for some unknown reason the West will continue to give, give, give and at the same time african will sceream for african solutions to african problems. Not one arican nation has come with an offer of help. To busy counting their money stuck away safely in Western banks.

      daaivark - 2011-08-16 09:23

      "Not one arican nation has come with an offer of help" (your spelling) - You clearly read news very selectively. Gift of the Givers is an SA based organisation and have been very active in the region, collecting quite large sums from South Africans that actually care.

  • Jedi knight - 2011-08-16 09:37

    release all hostages, South African nationals are being held. Aid for hostage release from Pirates. This aid will only increase the number of pirates, thanks US AID AND UK AID for helping before , but this partly caused by aid, hand outs don't work..

  • pages:
  • 1