Famine in East Africa
Logistical Nightmare Hinders Aid Efforts in Somalia
Delivering the goods alone isn't enough -- distribution of supplies can be just as big a challenge. "The key question is always: Do the aid organizations have access to those who need help? Will they be present for the distribution of food?" says Simone Pott of German Agro Aid.
In Mogadishu, the WFP is operating out of two secure centers guarded by UN peacekeeping forces. Some 100 refugees show up every day to receive food.
Aid groups who want to work outside of Mogadishu and distribute goods in the surrounding villages must first clarify questions concerning distribution with the community there. "We don't just drive there, throw the supplies down and drive away again," says Lang of Alliance Development Works. One has to "be careful that the distribution of foodstuffs doesn't lead to conflict among the people -- because then only the strongest can prevail."
What's more, if the chief of the clan in the village denies the organization's request to oversee distribution, it's difficult to do anything, says Lang. And if a gang arrives and seizes the newly delivered aid supplies, there's nothing they can do to prevent that.
Aid workers are constantly at risk of being attacked and robbed, or taken hostage, by al-Shabab militants, and bribe money can't help the situation. "If you start to pay bribes, you simply set off a vicious cycle," explains Lang. Professor Dreher of the University of Heidelberg agrees that bribes are unlikely to have much impact: "What's the incentive to take bribes if they can simply grab all the relief supplies plus the aid workers -- for whom they can get a ransom?"