MOMBASA, Dec 17 (IPS) – Pirate attacks in East African waters this year have disrupted the delivery of much-needed food aid to Somalia. With millions of lives at stake, U.N. World Food Program officials said the commencement last week of a European Union naval escort mission should help guarantee regular food shipments in the early months of 2009.
While Somali piracy has been a local problem since at least the late 1990s, only this year have pirates extended their reach deep into the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, endangering major international shipping. Pirates have hijacked around 40 large vessels since January. The U.N.-led aid effort to Somalia — one of the biggest humanitarian campaigns in the world — is one victim of this surge in hijackings.
Periodically this year, WFP has found it difficult to get food into Somalia by sea — at a time when demand for food aid is only growing.