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WFP Thanks French Navy For Protection From Pirates

UN food agency thanks French navy for protecting its Somali aid from pirates

3 February 2008 - Hailing the French navy for protecting its ships carrying aid supplies from pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia since mid-November, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has thanked Denmark for agreeing to take over the operation for the next two months.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said in a statement yesterday from the agency's headquarters in Rome that "safe travel through Somali waters has made an enormous impact on our ability to reach more than a million hungry, vulnerable people.

"As food security continues to deteriorate in Somalia, and the number of hungry people is set to rise, I urge other governments to step forward in the same spirit of cooperation."

Since French navy ships began their escort operation in November, nine shipments carrying over 30,000 tons of food - or enough to feed 300,000 people for six months - have travelled safely from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to either Mogadishu or Merka in Somalia.

WFP has also been able to build up its in-country stocks of food and, if shipments continue, now expects to feed 1.8 million people in the Horn of Africa nation this year, up from 1.53 million in 2007.

The escort operation began after an escalating series of attacks of piracy were reported off the Somali coast last year, including some in which crew members were taken hostage. In total, 31 acts of piracy were reported, including three against ships ferrying WFP supplies.

The UN agency said the situation in Somalia remains grim, particularly in Mogadishu, where the fighting has been fiercest in the past year. In other parts of the country, locals have endured their worst cereal harvest in 13 years.

Without new donations of food, WFP estimates that it will exhaust its existing supplies as early as March, and it is calling for $15 million to buy almost 20,000 tons of food to cover shortfalls until June.

ENDS

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