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Killing Of UN Food Convoy Driver Marks 4th For '08

Latest killing of food convoy driver marks fourth loss for UN agency this year

9 July 2008 - A truck driver delivering aid for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) was gunned down in southern Somalia, the fourth such loss for the agency this year.

Ahmed Saalim was part of a convoy of WFP-contracted trucks carrying over 600 metric tons of WFP food from Mogadishu to Bay and Bakool regions. He was shot when fighting broke out on Monday between convoy escorts and militiamen at a checkpoint near the village of Leego in Lower Shabelle region.

WFP Country Director Peter Goossens noted that Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991 and where millions are suffering from a combination of insecurity, drought and high food and fuel prices, is becoming increasingly dangerous at the same time as the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance is on the rise.

The agency is aiming to feed some 2.4 million Somalis per month for the rest of the year.

"WFP food is reaching many people but our drivers are daily risking their lives to deliver it," he said.

"We send our condolences to the family of Ahmed Saalim and appeal for these killings to stop," Mr. Goossens added.

The agency is urging all parties to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian staff and assistance for the Somali people, amid worsening insecurity in much of southern and central Somalia with killings and kidnappings of aid workers.

To ensure the delivery of aid to those who need it the most, WFP is still urgently seeking naval escorts for ships loaded with WFP food to protect them from piracy.

Some 90 per cent of WFP food for Somalia is brought in by sea. In late June, a frigate from the Royal Netherlands Navy ended its mission escorting ships loaded with WFP food since April.

ENDS

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