Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

UN agency acts on Somali food-aid claims

Somali people queue at a World Food Program camp in Mogadishu, file image
Thousands of displaced Somalis rely on food aid from WFP

The UN's food agency has blacklisted three contractors named in a UN report which alleged that food aid in Somalia was being diverted.

The World Food Programme said it would not engage in any new work with the contractors and welcomed the report.

The WFP stressed that it had dealt with many of the concerns in the report.

The UN monitoring group document said corrupt contractors, militants and local UN workers were diverting food aid and selling it illegally.

Earlier this year, the WFP was forced to suspend food distribution in southern Somalia because of threats from armed groups.

Widespread corruption

"The integrity of our organisation is paramount and we will be reviewing and investigating each and every issue raised by this report," said WFP executive director, Josette Sheeran.

"WFP stands ready to offer full co-operation with any independent inquiry into its work in Somalia."

The UN document says up to half of the food aid in Somalia is diverted to a web of corrupt contractors, distributors, transporters and armed groups.

Some local UN workers are also accused of taking a cut in the profits.

It blames the problem on the food distribution system in the war-torn country, where transporters have to navigate roadblocks operated by various militias and bandits. Charges that food aid was being diverted first surfaced in 2009.

The US has since reduced funding to Somalia, fearing that aid was falling into the hands of the Islamist group al-Shabab.

The report, which was leaked to various media organisations this week, is due to be officially presented to the UN Security Council on 16 March.

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