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News Release

Nairobi: The UN World Food Programme has condemned major obstacles imposed by various local authorities and militiamen in Somalia while recently transporting by road 700 tonnes of relief food to southern Somalia

The 24 truck convoy, which departed from the Port of Merca on 17 November and arrived only yesterday, was delayed at over 40 checkpoints, turning the typically three-day journey into a 21-day odyssey.

"What should have been a quick and hassle-free operation, has instead taken three weeks of long and painstaking negotiations," said Robert Hauser, WFP Country Representative for Somalia. "It is indicative of the extreme difficulties in conducting relief work in this part of Somalia."

This is the first WFP food convoy to reach Wajid in the Bakool Region since June when WFP's Baidoa office was closed due to rival faction-leader claims of authority over the town.

Food stocks that remained in Baidoa were exhausted in September, and the lack of renewed food supplies over many months has seriously compromised the food security of the poorest people in the area.

The food aid to be distributed over the next week in the Bay and Bakool regions will be given to Mother and Child Health Centers (MCH) where WFP provides food rations to poor families with malnourished children, reaching some 1,600 families (9,600 beneficiaries).

The food is also being distributed in support of community based food-for-work projects, benefiting some 12,000 people to whom food is given in return for work on rehabilitation projects, such as the construction of water catchments.

Southern Somalia in general suffers from chronic food insecurity.This year, in the Bakool region, the main harvest was down by more half its pre-war level. Perpetual food shortages are further aggravated by the prevailing insecurity.

Food and relief assistance in general is critical over the months ahead, until at least the next harvest in January. WFP plans to send another convoy with some 700 MT of relief food within the next couple of weeks. Cooperation from authorities is crucial to maintain the provision of live-saving food assistance.

"Obstructions to the provision of food aid are totally unacceptable," said Hauser, "We are in the business of saving lives, and this food is urgently needed. Somalis should be the first to assist us in getting the relief food to those who need it -- not be the ones creating difficulties for their own people."

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