The World Food Program says it needs to bring about 150
thousand tons of food into Somalia over the next three months. However, as of
September 27th, food ships will no longer have an armed escort
vessel, and shippers are fearful of entering Somali waters due to piracy.
Peter Goossens is the WFP's country director for
Somalia. From Mombasa, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe
De Capua about why he's in the Kenyan coast city.
"My purpose of the visit is basically to have a
little ceremony on board the Canadian naval vessel that has been escorting our
ships since August 18th. We talked a little bit about the operation,
about what needs to happen in the next couple of months, the need for more
escorts because they are leaving on September 27th," he says.
Goossens is concerned about the lack of an escort
ship after that date. "That is making me very nervous right now. We had an
eight-week gap before the Canadians jumped in. In that time we had basically
run out of our in-country stocks (of food). That means my flexibility is
basically gone…. And of course, if I
don't have escorts and find vessels of a decent size to help me out…we're going
to see serious shortages of food in Somalia," he says.
Owners of large ships in South Africa are
reluctant to put their vessels at risk. "That's correct. Those are the bigger
vessels. The smaller coastal vessels that we might still be able to find are
just not adequate anymore. We need the bigger ships. The first thing they ask
you…is do you have escorts? And if no escorts, then they say I have to think
Asked why no other nation has come forward to
offer an escort vessel, Goossens says, "That is, in effect, my big question
mark. I don't know. The navies that so far have assisted us – we started with
the French, then the Danish and the Dutch and now the Canadians – have very
positive experiences. They like doing it. They get a lot of direct, positive
(media) coverage from it. So do the governments. So, the question of why is it
so difficult, I really don't know."
Goossens and others from the
World Food Program will be visiting various countries next week to ask for an
escort vessel. "We are very actively lobbying," he says.