Canada's navy to escort ships carrying food aid for Somalia

Peter Mckey
OTTAWA (AFP) — A Canadian navy frigate is being deployed to the coast of Somalia to escort World Food Programme ships carrying humanitarian aid to the region beset by pirates, Canada's government said Wednesday.

HMCS Ville de Quebec, at the request of the UN World Food Programme and the UN International Maritime Organization, has been dispatched "to ensure their safe arrival at designated ports," said Defense Minister Peter MacKay in a statement.

"Food supplies are urgently needed in Somalia but deteriorating security has made delivery difficult by land and sea," he said. "Canada is stepping up to the plate."

Formal authorization from Somalia's transitional government to enter its territorial waters over "the next few weeks" is still being sought, he added.

Somalia has been beset by instability and insecurity for almost 20 years and is further affected by regional droughts and increasing world food prices.

Over 2.4 million Somalis currently rely on food aid, of which, 80 percent arrives by sea. While pirates have launched 31 attacks on vessels off Somalia's eastern and northern coasts, to date no escorted World Food Programme ships have been targeted.

Over the last eight months, France, Denmark and the Netherlands have also provided naval escorts for the UN agency.

Source: AFP,  August  6,  2008

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