spokesman for the World Food Program, Peter Smerdon, expressed concern that the
pirate attacks on food shipment would lead to a delay of needed food relief to
Somalia, where drought and civil war has left tens of thousands of people
The cargo ship
Maersk-Alabama, freed this week from pirates, is now unloading food in the port
of Mombasa, Kenya. But two other ships have been taken or diverted: the Togo-flagged
Sea Horse was attacked 700 kilometers from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on
its way to pick up 7000 metric tons of maize for the WFP from Mumbai, India.
"This is a
worrying development for us," said Smerdon:
concerned the people in Somalia will go hungry unless the Lebanese-owned Sea
Horse is quickly released or a replacement ship can be found. It was due to
open a new corridor for the WFP from Mumbai to Somalia to deliver life-saving
assistance. So we are alarmed that it was hijacked before it could even do
ship is the US-flagged Liberty Sun, which was attacked by pirates Tuesday after
it had made a food delivery at Port Sudan. Smerdon said it was damaged by
rocket propelled grenade fire, but the crew is safe and the vessel is going to
Mombasa under US escort.
The Liberty Sun is carrying
27 thousand metric tons of food, mostly for the WFP's program in Somalia, with
smaller amounts going to its program in southern Sudan and Kenya. Among the
food stocks are maize meal, wheat flour, yellow peas, lentils and soya blend,
which is useful for treating malnutrition in children and mothers. It's also
carrying three thousand metric tons of food for World Vision and for NGOs in
Smerdon said thanks to EU
naval escorts, food deliveries have been delivered without being attacked to
the port of Mogadishu, Somalia. Likewise, he say today there is little looting
of food once it's taken ashore. One reason is because the WFP gets the public
or written assurances of local leaders and armed groups that the convoys will
not be attacked. Another is the system transporters use to deliver the food.
"The transport companies
work under a cash bond system; they have to give us a cash bond in return in
return for taking the WFP food. If the food doers not arrive we keep the cash
bond. So, it is in the interest of the transporters to make sure they are only
delivering food to areas they can reach without being looted or attacked. This
system works well and we lose very little food in Somalia from looting."
Some political groups in
Somalia portray the pirates as a sort of informal coast guard or even as
modern-day Robin Hoods taking goods from the rich to give to the poor. But
according to Smerdon, "These groups have used all sorts of excuses to justify
their actions, but I think from the growth in piracy one can see clearly that
is simply a money-making exercise. "
may be driven by Somalia being awash with weapons and the bad humanitarian
situation so everyone wants to make money," he continued, "but they are buying
large houses and equipment; they are not redistributing wealth to the poorest."