Report: Half of Somalia food aid diverted

March 9, 2010 at 7:59 PM

NEW YORK, March 9 (UPI) -- Up to half of the food aid to Somalia never makes it to those who need it, a new report says.

The aid instead ends up in the hands of corrupt contractors, radical Islamist militants and local U.N. staff, a U.N. Security Council report shows, The New York Times reported.

The U.N. report recommends U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon begin an investigation into the World Food Program in the African country and calls for an overhaul of the food-distribution system serving 2.5 million people.

"Some humanitarian resources, notably food aid, have been diverted to military uses," the report said. "A handful of Somali contractors for aid agencies have formed a cartel and become important power brokers -- some of whom channel their profits or the aid itself -- directly to armed opposition groups."

U.S. and U.N. officials have delayed aid shipments and suspended them in some areas because food is not getting to those in need, the Times said.

The World Food Program's deputy executive director, Amir Abdulla, said Tuesday program officials have not seen the report.

"But," Abdulla added, "we will investigate all of the allegations as we have always done in the past if questions have been raised about our operations."

Somalia is looking to U.S. military help to reclaim control of its capital. In an offensive expected to start within a few weeks, Somalia hopes to drive al-Qaida terrorists from Mogadishu.

The report also found regional Somali authorities had been cooperating with pirates who hijack ships along the country's coast.

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