UN body salutes France for escorting aid ships safely into Somalia

Nov 21, 2007
Author: P&S

Nairobi, 19 November 2007 - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed the safe arrival on Monday of the first two ships carrying WFP food assistance to be escorted by a French naval vessel to Somalia, and urged other countries to step forward to help protect humanitarian assistance from pirate attacks.

"This operation comes at a critical time for the Somali people who have been devastated by some of the worst conflict and drought seen in years," said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, adding that she was very grateful to the Government of France and the French Navy for providing naval escorts to ships carrying WFP food to Somalia.

"Piracy has damaged our ability to reach Somalia's most vulnerable people. We cannot tackle this challenge alone and are grateful to those helping to protect our ships."

Since 27 October, nearly 200,000 people have fled their homes in Mogadishu because of fighting, bringing the total number of people displaced by insecurity in the capital to 580,000 since February. Many are living in desperate conditions, camped on the sides of roads during the rainy season – without shelter, or the most basic sanitation and medical assistance.

The French corvette FNS COMMANDANT DUCUING (F795) left the Kenyan port of Mombasa on Friday, escorting the MV Rozen loaded with 2,800 metric tons of WFP food and MV Semlow with 850 tons. They arrived at Somali’s Merka port on Monday.

Sheeran said WFP needs a safe sea supply line to Somalia to provide food to the steadily increasing numbers of people living in dire circumstances. "We, like France, hope other nations will urgently step up and follow the French example," Sheeran said.

Sheeran also thanked the multinational coalition naval force off Somalia for its increased surveillance and actions against a plague of pirate attacks in recent months. WFP and the International Maritime Organisation jointly appealed in July for high-level international action to stamp out piracy in waters off Somalia.

So far this year, pirates have mounted at least 26 attacks on ships off Somalia, including 13 hijackings. Of those attacked, three were ships carrying WFP food assistance.

An estimated 80 percent of WFP food assistance to Somalia is transported to the country by sea. The Government of France has said that its escort operation will last two months.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. Last year it gave food to 88 million people - mostly women and children - in 78 of the world's poorest countries.


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