March 15, 2010:
The UN has documented what many people already knew; that half the food aid going to Somalia is stolen by bandits, Islamic radicals and UN employees. Also involved are local businessmen, who buy the stolen food and sell it in markets. But it gets worse. Islamic radical organization Al Shabaab recently ordered the UN to stop importing food for nearly four million starving Somalis. The Islamic radicals say that all the free food makes it difficult for Somali farmers to stay in business. This is often the case, although there is a major drought going on in Somalia, and many farmers are unable to produce food locally, and are too broke to buy food locally. Historically, a portion of the population would die of starvation during these droughts (or other natural disasters), and the survivors would prosper for a bit. But free food from international aid organizations has upset this cycle, often keeping populations dependent on the food aid indefinitely. The population also grows, putting more stress on inadequate resources.
Al Shabaab also claims that some of the food is past its expiration date. This reflects the fact that much food is donated because it is old enough to exceed local expiration date laws, but not so old that it is no longer edible. There have been no cases of anyone receiving such food and getting ill from it. What's really going on here is that Al Shabaab apparently wants to extort more money and goods from the UN to allow food aid to come in. But the UN is already having a hard time getting nations to donate food, because it's long been known that much of the food is stolen, and that the UN has to pay millions of dollars each year in bribes to get armed groups to allow food aid in.
Until this new report was released, the UN insisted that theft was not out of control. But now, apparently facing reality is seen as the only way to try and deal with the situation. The UN also reported that the Transitional Government is also involved in the corruption. Not just with food and other aid, but with visas the UN arranges for members of the Transitional Government to travel abroad. These visas are often sold to the highest bidder, including Islamic terrorists. It's no secret that the Transitional Government is corrupt, and much promised foreign aid for them has been stalled until the donors can impose controls that the money will be spent as intended. The Transitional Government resists these controls, and this presents yet another headache for those who are trying to restore peace and stability in Somalia.