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UNITED NATIONS EXPERTS DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT DIFFICULTIES IN PROVIDING FOOD AID TO VULNERABLE POPULATIONS IN SOMALIA

The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Mr. Jean Ziegler, and the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Mr. Ghanim Alnajjar issued the following statement today:

Geneva, 12 July 2007: The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Mr. Jean Ziegler, and the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Mr. Ghanim Alnajjar, express their deep concern at difficulties faced by humanitarian actors in providing emergency food aid to vulnerable populations in Somalia. These difficulties exacerbate the widespread chronic nutrition crisis that in certain regions of Somalia has reached emergency levels of global acute malnutrition.

Only a few days ago, a food convoy finally reached the 200,000 Somalis in the Gedo region, including internally displaced persons, who had been awaiting humanitarian assistance for six months. Many of these intended beneficiaries were suffering from severe malnutrition.

The climate of continuing insecurity throughout large parts of Somalia, coupled with massive displacement and the extreme underdevelopment of infrastructure in remote areas, hamper the timely delivery of food aid.

The experts are alarmed by the difficulties and delays encountered at crossing points on the Kenya-Somalia border, some of which have been closed or operating at a very low level since January 2007. When convoys transporting food aid are delayed at some crossing points for extended periods of time, the costs of providing assistance increases and the situation of vulnerable populations becomes aggravated. Now that the trucks are being allowed to cross, they hope that a permanent solution for humanitarian shipments across the Kenya-Somalia border will be found.

The experts are also disturbed to learn that incidents, including theft of food from beneficiaries particularly from minority groups, continue to occur during and immediately after food distribution. The existence of a few hundred roadblocks in various locations impedes food delivery and allows for abusive taxation by rogue officials and assorted militias.

The increase in the number of reported incidents of piracy in Somali waters - sometimes targeting ships bearing food assistance - is also deeply worrying to the experts.

The Experts urgently call on the Somali Transitional Federal Government to take all necessary steps to facilitate the transport of food aid, end abusive taxation and ensure security and non-discrimination in the distribution of food aid. States Parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have the obligation to cooperate swiftly to address emergency food situations wherever they occur. The Experts therefore urge the Government of Kenya to cooperate to facilitate the swift delivery of food assistance. They also urge neighbouring countries as well as the international community to support the Somali Transitional Federal Government in fighting piracy off Somalia’s coast.