ROME, 11 March 2010 (Somalilandpress) – A U.N. food agency said Thursday it will cooperate with any independent probe into its food operations in Somalia, after a report found that up to half the food aid intended for the nation’s hungry people does not reach its destination.
The report said food aid in Somalia is being diverted to corrupt contractors, radical Islamic militants and local U.N. workers. It calls on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to authorize an independent investigation of the operations of the World Food Program in the country.
“The integrity of our organization is paramount and we will be reviewing and investigating each and every issue raised by this report,” WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said in a statement.
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“WFP stands ready to offer full cooperation with any independent inquiry into its work in Somalia,” it said.
The Rome-based agency also promised not to engage with transport contractors that the report alleges were involved in arms trading.
The report was made by the panel of experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against the African nation. It is to be presented to the U.N. Security Council next week, WFP says. The findings were first reported by The New York Times this week.
Sheeran said her organization “would do everything it could to reach the hungry in Somalia” — a country where around 3.7 million people, or nearly half of the population, need aid.
Sheeran said that “vulnerabilities are always present in conflict areas.” Some of the issues raised in the report have already been addressed, she said, while in other cases the agency wanted to correct some factual information. She did not single out any issues.
The WFP suspended operations across southern Somalia in January. The agency said it was acting in response to intimidation of its staff and because armed groups have made “unreasonable demands … that contravened WFP’s rules.”