Gunmen kill UN food aid worker in southern Somalia

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran

6 January 2009 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has urged all parties to the ongoing conflict in Somalia to ensure the safety of humanitarian aid workers after one of the agency’s staff members was gunned down while monitoring a school feeding programme in the southern part of the war-torn nation.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran condemned the killing of 44-year-old Somali national Ibrahim Hussein Duale, calling it a “shocking attack on one of our staff while he was doing his job.”

Mr. Duale was shot by three masked gunmen while he was monitoring school feeding in a WFP-supported school in Yubsan village, six kilometres from the Gedo region capital of Garbahare in southern Somalia. Witnesses say the gunmen approached him while he was seated, ordered him to stand up and then shot him.

Mr. Duale, who joined WFP in 2006, leaves behind a wife and five children. He is the third WFP staff member killed since August 2008 in Somalia, one of the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarian workers. Five WFP-contracted transport staff were killed in Somalia in 2008.

Somalia, which has not had a functioning national government since 1991, has been plagued by fighting and humanitarian suffering for decades. Continuing instability, coupled with drought, high food prices and the collapse of the local currency have only worsened the dire humanitarian situation in recent months.

The UN estimates that some 3.2 million people, or 40 per cent of the population, are in need of assistance.

“We call on all parties to allow us to do our job – providing food to feed the hungry at this critical time,” said Ms. Sheeran. “We are an impartial international organization and we need a minimum of security to serve the Somali people.”

Despite the precarious security situation, WFP has been feeding more than 1.5 million people every month in Somalia. Some 90 percent of the agency’s food aid for Somalia arrives by sea on ships currently escorted by European Union naval vessels to protect them from piracy.

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