United Nations World Food Programme

Somalia Backgrounder

21 February 1995

The following is intended to provide updated information on the food aid situation in Somalia. Journalists are free to quote from this. For further information, contact Brenda Barton, WFP Regional Information Officer at (254-2) 622594 or 230807 or Internet: wfpinfo@unep.no

Current Food Aid Requirements

People are no longer dying of hunger in Somalia. This is not to say that people in this drought-prone country are no longer vulnerable to famine. Even in a stable country such as Ethiopia, it takes years to fully recover from a famine of the magnitude which hit Somalia in 1991/92. With no central Government, little commercial activity, high unemployment, and scarce donor assistance for recovery and development, the majority of Somalis remain poor and food insecure.

Since March 1993, when the emergency response to the famine began to subside, WFP's main efforts have been concentrated on using food aid in creative and useful ways which are more development-oriented. Generally, this has meant providing food in exchange for work ("food-for-work"), and selling high-value commodities not produced in Somalia to generate cash for rehabilitation/ reconstruction projects ("monetization") which pay for salaries or project material costs. As food is one of the few resources available in Somalia, these programmes help generate thousands of new jobs each month while also paying a component of the salaries of thousands of Somalis, including professionals such as teachers and health workers.

By late 1994, 'relief' food - food which is provided to vulnerable people who are displaced, or temporarily without food, or have little or no purchasing power - comprised a maximum of 10% of WFP's overall programme in Somalia. Instead, at least 90% of our programme, which benefits an average of 250,000 people each month, focuses on rehabilitation (ie the repair of canals, feeder roads, community infrastructures). More than 80% of these projects are implemented by local NGOs, administrations and communities.

WFP's 1995 budget for Somalia totals US$ 45 million. In financial terms, WFP programmes are the largest of any of the specialized UN agencies operating in Somalia.

Food Deliveries

WFP distributes an average of 4,000 to 5,000 metric tonnes of food each month throughout the country. Food is delivered through three main ports - Mogadishu, Berbera and Bosasso. With the return of international staff to Kismayo, use of that port should also resume.

From the ports, food is transported by truck to the main centers where WFP operates. In light of the planned UNOSOM pull-out, WFP has been building buffer stocks of food in each of its field stations. Mogadishu port warehouse stocks have been virtually depleted in an effort to clear all port commodities by mid-February. Current food stocks in warehouses throughout the country should be sufficient for a 2-3 month period of normal operations.

WFP presently has a ship (M/V Petra Star) discharging 3,750 MT of wheatflour in Mogadishu port. This operation as well as the forward transport, is running smoothly. Last week another WFP ship finished discharging 2,500 MT of commodities in Mogadishu port. These are the last WFP ships expected in Mogadishu for the next one to two months.


The "Gu" harvest (the most important harvest) of Sept/Oct 1994 in the Bay and Bakool regions of Somalia, which are considered the main grain baskets of the country since they make up 70% of the rain-fed agricultural area in Somalia - reached up to 80% of pre-civil war levels. In surplus areas, WFP has been procuring cereals from local farmers to support the markets and to avoid bringing in relief food which could further depress post-harvest prices. This food is subsequently distributed to targeted programmes and food deficit areas.

The "Deyr" season harvest is presently being brought in. The main crops of this season traditionally constitute sesame, water melon and various vegetables. However, this season about fifty percent of the cultivated land in the Middle and Lower Shabelle areas was planted with maize. The reason for this unusual phenonomen can be attributed to the fact that the water level of the Shabelle river was very high due to plentiful rain, first in the Ethiopian highlands and later in southern Somalia. Hence virtually all irrigation canals were full and land could easily be supplied with water. In addition, the irrigation systems were functioning well in particular through the considerable improvements made possible by the large number of WFP food for work projects that have targeted the rehabilitation of canals in these areas.

A further reason for the unusually large maize cultivation was that farmers were expecting the price of maize to rise as result of the relatively weak production during the last Gu season causing prices to remain high. Unfortunately, unexpected heavy rains in October and November which triggered considerable flooding in some areas, washed away and/or destroyed over fifty percent of the planted maize seeds. These losses left many farmers vulnerable as they were not in a position to re-invest in the seeds needed to replant for the same season. For this reason, WFP provided in December special emergency rations to nearly 5,000 affected farming families in the Juba Valley and Middle and Lower Shabelle.

On the other hand, the farmers in the rain-fed areas (in particular Bay and Bakool region) benefited from the abundant rains and sorghum, maize, sesame and vegetable crops which have grown exceptionally well. In fact, the harvest from the rain-fed areas could compensate for some of the losses experienced in the irrigated areas.

Overall production from the Deyr harvest is expected to be some 50% to 60% of pre-civil war levels, and immensely better than 1994.

WFP Staffing

WFP currently has 9 international staff remaining in Mogadishu, all of whom are located in the port. These include the WFP Country Director, WFP Head of Monetization, and WFP Head of Logistics plus six port consultants from Hamburg. The three office staff were relocated from our office/residence to the port residence on Friday, 17 February. All WFP staff have been instructed to relocate from Mogadishu by February 26. WFP national staff will continue operations out of the Mogadishu office until WFP international staff are given security clearance to return to the city after the UNOSOM pull-out.

Outside of Mogadishu, 15-18 WFP international staff, together with national staff, continue to work out of eight field offices in: Hargeisa, Bossaso, Berbera, Baidoa, Kismayo, Huddur, Wajit, and Luuq.