Somalia: UN agency ships food aid under naval protection amid bleak forecasts

14 November 2008

More than 2 million Somalis suffering the combined effects of war, drought, and soaring food and fuel prices will receive deliveries of almost 60,000 tons of food from a United Nations agency this month, thanks to naval protection from the Netherlands and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against pirate attacks.

Naval escorts from a Dutch frigate and two NATO warships are providing vital protection from pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa for the six UN World Food Programme (WFP) ships loaded with aid.

Since the end of October, WFP vessels have been able to deliver over 48,400 tons of food to some 2.3 million Somalis, the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced in a press release today.

WFP ships have been a frequent target for pirates seeking a ransom for the captured cargo, but since the naval escort system began in November 2007, none of the agency’s ships have been attacked despite 2008 being the worst year ever for piracy off Somalia.

OCHA reported that WFP has also received a contribution of more than 7,500 tons of corn soy blend – critical to WFP’s efforts in fighting malnutrition in Somalia – from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The food security outlook for much of the war-torn country continues to look bleak. If the current rainy season fails, especially in drought-affected pastoral communities, as well as urban and rural households in south-central Somalia, more than 3.5 million people will require humanitarian assistance by next year.

Currently, some 43 per cent of the country, or 3.2 million people, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, according to OCHA.

In a related development, OCHA report that the flood alert along the Shabelle and Juba River valleys has been raised from moderate to high following significant rainfall in parts of southern Somalia and in the Ethiopian highlands, where the two rivers originate.


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