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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Somalia: Relief News

According to ReliefWeb, here
In the light of the expected continued deterioration of the food security situation in Somalia, WFP needs an additional 40,000 metric tons of food to feed some 1.4 million people in Somalia between January and July 2008. For the whole year, WFP plans to feed a total of 1.8 million people in Somalia including 590,000 displaced people in South Central, 905,000 vulnerable people for general food distribution in the South and 305,000 others in the North.

The French Navy will escort the last vessel loaded with food back to Mombasa once it finishes unloading at the southern Somali port of Marka. The Danish government is at a final stage in considering to take-over the French naval protection to ensure safe passage against pirates to ships carrying WFP food.
More on the Danish decision here:
The French Navy has now taken up the role of soldiers of mercy by escorting ships contracted by WFP to deliver relief supplies from the port of Mombasa to Somalia.

Lieutenant commander Philippe Le Gac is the commanding officer of the French frigate which is among two French naval vessels involved in the mission.

Lt Commander Gac is happy that his country was the first to respond to the appeal for international intervention to ensure that relief supplies reached thousands of Somalis facing starvation.

For him, the French military mission was a demonstration of how those who care for others can show compassion during moments of catastrophic experiences as is the case in Somalia.

“As a soldier, I am very happy to be involved in this humanitarian mission that has seen me and other French soldiers ensuring that the people of Somalia who urgently need relief supplies get it despite insecurity posed by pirates,” he said in a recent interview.

Lt Commander Gac said they started escorting WFP ships last November due to increased cases of piracy which threatened the delivery of relief supplies.

“Since we started this mission which is expected to end next month, we have not experienced any difficulties from pirates and we are happy about this development,” he said.
He said the French Navy contingent would continue with its mission to escort vessels carrying relief supplies to Somalia until February when they are expected to hand over to the Danish Navy.

“As a navy, we are honoured and proud to be involved in such a worthy cause. But this is not the first time we are involved in such a mission and we hope to offer our assistance in future if called upon to do so,” he said.
In 2005, an upsurge of piracy in Somali waters, including the hijacking of two ships contracted by WFP, forced the UN agency to suspend all deliveries by sea for some weeks.

Some 80 per cent of WFP food assistance for Somalia is transported by sea. Pirate attacks had threatened to cut the relief agencies main supply route, jeopardising rations for the 1.2 million people that benefited from the programme.

The future even looks brighter for humanitarian activities in the Horn of Africa country because, apart from the French Navy, more international forces have shown interest in the mission, according to Lt Commander Gac.

“Apart from the Danish Navy which has already confirmed that it would be taking over from us in February, there are other countries which have indicated that they want to be involved in this mission,” he said.

Major boost

The Somali humanitarian mission received a major boost last week when the IMO-backed proposals were adopted to allow Western naval forces protecting shipping off the coast of East Africa the right of “hot pursuit”.

The proposal will allow naval protection vessels the freedom to act against pirates off the Horn of Africa, even inside Somali territorial waters.

While the IMO Assembly ruling is not binding on the transitional Somali government, the IMO has appealed to Mogadishu to cooperate with the ruling in an effort to cut the alarming rise in the piracy off the Horn of Africa.

The resolution urges the transitional Government to allow warships or military aircraft to operate in Somali territorial waters during operations against pirates.
Good for the French and, perhaps soon, the Danes.

Wow. Providing escorts for ships through pirate waters helps prevent piracy. Who knew? What? Everybody?
Bad on the UN for taking so long to figure it out.

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