Danes escort mercy ships



Publication Date: 2/6/2008

The Danish navy has taken over the task of escorting mercy ships to war-ravaged Somalia.

The ships carry food to more than one million starving Somalis on behalf of the World Food Programme (WFP).

The Danish navy takes over from its French counterpart which has been escorting WFP ships from Mombasa to Somalia following increased cases of piracy along the coast of the Horn of Africa country.

A WFP spokesperson in Nairobi, Ms Penny Ferguson confirmed the switchover. The French navy has been escorting WFP ships since mid-November last year.

Last year a total of 31 acts of piracy — three of them against ships ferrying WFP food to Somalia — were reported off the Somali coast, with 154 crew members taken hostage.

Before handing over the mandate to escort WFP ships to Denmark, the French navy had escorted nine shipments of 30,000 tonnes of food. The food, which can feed 300,000 people for six months.

The UN agency has however said it urgently needs US$15 million to buy nearly 20,000 metric tonnes of food to cover shortfalls until June.

Major boost

The Somali humanitarian mission received a major boost last week when the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)- backed proposals, allowing Western naval forces patrolling the Indian Ocean the right of “hot pursuit”, were adopted.

While the IMO Assembly ruling is not binding on the Transitional Somali Government, the organisation has appealed to Mogadishu to cooperate with the ruling in an effort to curb the alarming rise in cases of piracy off the Horn of Africa.



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