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UN Hails Canada's Decision To Provide Food Escorts

UN hails Canada's decision to provide escorts for food ships heading to Somalia

6 August 2008 - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed Canada's decision to deploy a frigate to Somalia to protect the agency's food ships against pirates, who have launched over two dozen attacks so far this year off the East African country's coast.

"WFP is grateful for Canada's leadership in protecting our maritime lifeline from piracy - this is a critical moment when more food is needed for a growing number of hungry," said WFP Country Director Peter Goossens.

Some 90 per cent of WFP food aid for Somalia arrives by sea. Since a naval escort system began last November, no escorted ships carrying WFP food have been attacked. The last escorted ship loaded with WFP food arrived in Mogadishu in late June.

There were a total of 31 incidents off Somalia in 2007 - the worst year on record for Somali piracy. Without escorts, WFP's whole maritime supply route is under threat, according to the agency, which noted that since the escorts ended in late June some shippers have refused to load WFP food for Somalia.

WFP urgently needs to double the amount of food it delivers to Somalia - which is facing a dire humanitarian crisis owing to drought, insecurity, failed harvests, the weakness of the Somali shilling and rising food and fuel prices - through the coming months so it can feed 2.4 million people by December.

Canada is the third largest donor to WFP's operations in Somalia, as well as worldwide. It stepped forward after WFP made a strong appeal in July for naval escorts, which have proved to be an effective deterrent against pirates. Previously, frigates from France, Denmark and the Netherlands have provided escorts for WFP ships.

The agency said that it hoped other governments would step forward to take over from Canada once it completes its mission in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the top UN official to the strife-torn nation has called on members of the Somali diaspora to provide support and encouragement for the ongoing efforts aimed at restoring peace and stability to the country, which has not had a functioning government since 1991.

This includes the implementation of the peace deal reached in June in neighbouring Djibouti, under which the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) agreed to end their conflict.

"Somalia needs strong partners," UN Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah wrote in a letter to the diaspora that was made public today. "The crises of the past are no longer tolerated by the Somali people - especially as we are just one year from the end of the transition period. Cooperation and peace are the way forward."

He also noted that the violence continues, pointing to the deaths of some 20 Somali women in a bombing in Mogadishu on Sunday.

Earlier this week, Mr. Ould-Abdallah called on the people of Somalia to work together to overcome the political problems that are threatening to unravel the Djibouti Agreement, after several of the country's government ministers resigned and the Mayor of Mogadishu was fired.

"Overall most Somalis are respecting their commitments," the Special Representative wrote. "We in the international community will match their efforts as peace and stability [are] long overdue, not just for the suffering people of Somalia, but it is also in the interests of the region and the international community as a whole."

ENDS

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