Somalia: UN urges for aid escorts

Published on Thursday 12th June 2008

Nairobi: The United Nations (UN) food agency has called on naval powers to continue protecting its aid shipments to Somalia from pirates or face a major humanitarian disaster in the troubled country.

"A Dutch frigate is scheduled to finish escort services for WFP on June 25. Since the escort system started last November, no World Food Programme (WFP) ships have been targeted by pirates, despite an upsurge of piracy in Somali waters," the UN agency said.

"Without escorts, our whole maritime supply route will be threatened," said WFP Country Director Peter Goossens. "Shipping companies are reluctant to sail unescorted to Somalia, and we have no offers to take over from the Royal Netherlands Navy."

"Millions of Somalis are suffering from a combination of insecurity, drought and high food and fuel prices. If relief shipments slow down, we could face a major catastrophe," Goossens said in a statement.

The WFP stressed that 80 percent of its food aid to Somalia arrives by sea. From mid-November French, Danish and Dutch frigates escorted enough food to feed nearly one million people for six months.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned earlier this week that up to 3.5 million Somalis will need humanitarian aid this year if the situation in the war-wracked east African nation fails to improve.