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First UN Food Agency Ship Arrives In Mogadishu

Somalia: First UN Food Agency Ship Arrives In Mogadishu In More Than A Decade

Aiming to alleviate suffering caused by drought, a ship chartered by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) docked this weekend in Mogadishu – the agency's first delivery to the Somali capital’s port in more than a decade.

The MV Redline docked at Mogadishu port on Sunday loaded with 3,300 metric tons of WFP food – 2,400 tons of cereals, 780 tons of lentils, 90 tons of highly nutritious blended food and 30 tons of vegetable oil. The food will be trucked to the drought stricken regions of Bay and Bakool in the south.

Rival claims by competing warlords closed Mogadishu port in February 1995 until the Union of Islamic Courts seized the capital in June. The port was reopened to shipping in August.

“Mogadishu is once again a key entry point for getting food stocks into the country. The reopening of the port makes it easier for us to reach more than one million people across the country who rely on our assistance,” said WFP Somalia Acting Country Director Leo van der Velden.

He said that using the country's largest port should reduce unloading times and help ease logistical problems that have complicated WFP's supply lines into Somalia over the past 10 years.

With Mogadishu closed to shipping, WFP-chartered ships had to unload their cargo at beach ports near the capital and at the port of Merka to the south. Cranes unloaded the food commodities from ships onto smaller barges, which then ferried them to the shallows, where porters waited to wade ashore with the bags.

Mr. Van den Velden said WFP was discussing with Mogadishu's newly appointed port management the use of WFP food in return for work to clean up the facility after years of disuse.

A spate of pirate attacks in Somali waters in 2005 forced WFP to bring food aid to the drought-stricken south by road because shipping companies were unwilling to risk voyages to Somalia. Two WFP-chartered ships were seized by pirates in 2005 and one escaped a pirate attack in March 2006.

Although the recent harvest has provided a respite for some people in Somalia, many families are still struggling to recover from last year's devastating drought, according to the agency, which estimated that 1.4 million people in North, central or southern Somalia face either an acute food and livelihood security crisis or humanitarian emergency until at least the end of December 2006. In addition, 400,000 internally displaced people need prolonged humanitarian assistance.

WFP needs a total of $37 million to assist 1.1 million people in Somalia until July 2007.

Ends

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