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Food Ships to Somalia Receive NATO and Dutch Protection

Rome, 10 November 2008 - The Netherlands and NATO are providing naval escorts to protect WFP ships carrying life-saving assistance from pirate attacks off Somalia. More than 2 million Somalis could go hungry without this protection.

On 26 October, the first two vessels loaded with a total of 18,500 metric tons of WFP food arrived safely in Mogadishu from the Kenyan port of Mombasa under the escort of the Dutch frigate HNLMS De Ruyter. HNLMS De Ruyter is dedicated to escorting WFP ships to Somalia into December.

On 28 October, the Greek frigate HS Themistokles – one of three NATO naval vessels in a NATO task force off Somalia charged with escorting WFP ships and other anti-piracy missions – escorted a ship loaded with 2,700 tons of WFP food to the beach port of Merka, 100 kilometres southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The NATO and Dutch naval vessels are continuing their escort missions in November to Mogadishu and Merka. With three naval vessels available for escorts, WFP will have a succession of ships delivering food assistance to Somalia, which requires 40,000 metric tons of WFP food every month.

European Union foreign ministers agreed on 10 November to dispatch five to seven frigates and support aircraft to the Horn of Africa in December. The force is charged with protecting merchant ships and WFP vessels bringing food to Somalia.

Since the naval escort system began in November 2007, no pirate attacks have been launched against ships loaded with WFP food despite 2008 being the worst year ever for piracy off Somalia.

There have been more than 80 attacks on shipping so far this year including 32 hijackings, compared with 31 attacks in 2007, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau.

More than 500 crew members have been taken hostage so far this year.