No, providing tens of thousands of tons of food aid in Somalia is not easy

Quoting a Times of London article about sacks of food aid from the World Food Program disturbingly showing up for sale in a Mogadishu market, Ed Morrissey’s unsurprising embrace of UN-bashing curiously omits the following from the very same article:

Many of the sacks for sale are marked: “A gift from the American people”, with the US government’s aid agency, USAID, providing $274 million last year in food and in humanitarian assistance for Somalia.

If food aid is not getting into the hands of those who need it, and is instead being re-sold for a profit — whether the aid comes from the UN, the U.S. of A., or anywhere else — that is a serious problem. It is also a problem that needs to be addressed in context; Somalia is the most difficult, dangerous, and complicated place for an aid worker to operate. Ensuring that every sack of food gets to the place it is supposed to go to is likely as impossible as accounting for every one of the ransom dollars that Somali pirates spend so recklessly. This is not an apology; it is a reality.

Morrissey’s indictment of the entire UN aid program in Somalia is all the less defensible because, again, the very article that he cites concludes with the WFP’s Somali director characterizing the re-selling of food aid as a “minor phenomenon.” This may go against the scandal-mongering tenor of the rest of the piece, but the fact is that the WFP does a lot of humanitarian aid work in Somalia, and the sacks that cannot be accounted for likely make up a very small percentage of this work. The WFP, though, is investigating the problem.