SOMALIA: Soup kitchens for the poorest in Mogadishu

Friday, December 14, 2007

An NGO in Somalia has set up soup kitchens targeting the poorest families in the capital, Mogadishu, who are unable to access help due to ongoing violence.

"We are operating 10 kitchens in 10 of the 16 districts of Mogadishu, providing cooked food to thousands of people who would otherwise go hungry,” Mohamed Abdullahi Mahamud, of Saacid, the NGO running the kitchens, told IRIN.

Mahamud said each kitchen was feeding about 5,300 people daily, "and many more people have been coming as they find out about the programme".

The kitchen programme started on 25 November, supported by a consortium of aid agencies and implemented by Saacid, according to Mahamud.

The last time soup kitchens were set up in Mogadishu was during the 1992 famine, when tens of thousands died.

UN World Food Programme (WFP-Somalia) is part of the consortium helping the soup kitchens. WFP public information officer, Said Warsame, said: "WFP plans to reach 50,000 of the most vulnerable people living inside Mogadishu through 10 wet feeding centres where a daily hot meal is provided."

He said all 10 centres were operational.

A local journalist who visited some of the sites told IRIN that most of the people queuing for food were women and children.

"These are the poorest of the poor who were unable to leave the city," the journalist said.

He said many of them were victims of looting. "More often than not, whenever they were given dry food it was looted by armed men," he said.

WFP said it had previously experienced high levels of insecurity during general distributions of dry rations in the capital.

Fadumo Hussein, a 28-year-old mother of five, who was queuing up at a Karaan (north Mogadishu) kitchen, told IRIN by telephone that she and her children visited the kitchen daily for their rations.

"We each get a portion of cooked maize porridge and soup once every day," she said. "It is not enough but it is better than nothing."

Hussein said there was no work now and "even if there was, you could not go out because of the insecurity".

WFP said it was in discussion with the regional administration of Banadir (Mogadishu and environs) to expand WFP's operations in Mogadishu.

Meanwhile, hundreds of families continue to flee Mogadishu.

"For two hours last night [12 December] shells were raining on the Gubta, [northwest of Mogadishu], Suuqa Xoolaha, and near the SOS hospital [north Mogadishu]," said the journalist. "There have been movements of people away from the city since last night."

He said a shell landed at Bakara market on 13 December, killing 10 people instantly.

The ongoing violence between insurgents and Ethiopian-backed government forces has so far caused 238,000 people to leave Mogadishu since end of October, according to the UN.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says the total number of displaced across the country has reached one million.

Source: IRIN