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Africa | Somalia
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UN hails EU support to curb piracy on food aid

afrol News, 15 December - The United Nations food agency has said the European Union move to escort and protect food aid against piracy is a long term solution to save lives of ordinary people in the war torn Somalia.

WFP's Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Ramiro Lopes said pirates have threatened to cut off humanitarian aid to thousands of Somalis in dire need, saying long awaited deployment of EU naval escorts would take the much needed assistance to Somalia.

"This means we can guarantee a flow of food assistance to the people of Somalia who are suffering from drought, conflict, and the impact of high food prices," he said.

The UN surveys since the beginning of the year, found out that more than 18 per cent - which is already well above 15 percent emergency threshold - need emergency food in the country.

According to the UN, the first of the ships to be protected by the EU is the MV Semlow, which left the Kenyan port of Mombasa yesterday, loaded with enough supplies to feed 50,000 people for a month.

"The EU force will provide escort vessels to WFP for up to a year. This will ensure that there should not be any breaks in protection nor a need for frequent appeals for replacements, the case until now," WFP said in a statement.

WFP has reported an arrival of sixty shipments of more than 260,000 metric tons of WFP food in Somalia despite lack of protection and rife piracy in Somali waters. The UN however said more than 100 ships have been attacked since the beginning of the year.

Several governments have provided naval escorts for ships carrying food aid since last November to troubled Somalia, and since then, no ship carrying WFP supplies has seen pirates attacks.

The food agency also said a Dutch frigate and two NATO warships took over escort duties in the last week of October, protecting 13 ships which delivered food for 1.8 million people over the last three months. The NATO and Dutch missions ended last week.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has called on all countries and regional organisations with the necessary capacity to deploy naval ships and military aircraft off the Somali coast to fight piracy which is impeding UN efforts to feed millions of hungry civilians in the strife-torn country.

The crisis in Somalia worsened in the second half of 2008 with 3.25 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including 3.1 million people in need of food assistance.

The EU's Operation Atlanta includes naval escorts for WFP ships, escorts for commercial shipping, aerial surveillance and measures to deter, prevent and intervene in order to bring an end to acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast. It is the first-ever EU naval operation and was established under the French Presidency of the European Union.

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