Hunger in the news
Share

15 April 2009

The French navy captured 11 pirates off Kenya and a U.S. cargo vessel evaded rocket fire as Somali hijackers followed through on a threat to increase attacks. The pirates were seized after their attempt to hijack the Safmarine Asia, a Liberian-registered cargo ship, was thwarted by a helicopter from the frigate Nivose late yesterday, France’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. [...] Shortly before the attack on the Safmarine Asia, the crew of the U.S.-flagged Liberty Sun, taking food aid to Africa, used evasive maneuvers to foil a hijack attempt by Somali pirates who fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. [...] The ship, which was chartered by the World Food Program, was carrying 27,000 tons of food aid destined for Kenya, Somalia and southern Sudan, Peter Smerdon, a spokesman for the United Nations agency, said today in a telephone interview. The cargo, which includes maize meal, corn-soya blend, wheat flour, lentils and yellow peas, is enough to feed 1.6 million people for a month, Smerdon said. [...] [Two other ships were seized yesterday, among them the Sea Horse, a Togolese-flagged cargo ship which was heading for Mumbai, India, to pick up WFP food aid for Somalia.]


15 April 2009

A 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 hungry. 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: "We are 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 this."


15 April 2009

The US skipper freed in a dramatic rescue after being held hostage off Somalia for days arrived in Kenya Thursday aboard a warship, while Washington said it wants to freeze pirates' assets. [...] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a plan on Wednesday, calling for prosecution and freezing pirates' assets with the support of Washington's international partners. The chief US diplomat added that she was also sending an envoy to an April 23 Somali donors' conference in Brussels to improve the situation in lawless Somalia and help implement the plan. "These pirates are criminals, they are armed gangs on the sea," Clinton told reporters. [...] She said there are "ways to crack down on companies that do business with pirates." The World Food Programme has warned that millions in Africa risk going hungry if pirate hijackings keep aid ships from arriving in Mombasa. While piracy off Somalia has long been a problem for aid freighters, recent hijackings have marked a new development in the attacks, it said in a statement. The attack on the Maersk Alabama "was the first case of a Mombasa-bound ship carrying WFP food being hijacked," the agency said. "If food assistance cannot arrive through Mombasa for Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, southern Sudan and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, millions of people will go hungry and the already high malnutrition rates will rise."


14 April 2009

President Obama vowed Monday to “halt the rise of piracy” off the coast of Africa following the dramatic rescue of an American merchant captain, foreshadowing a longer and potentially more treacherous struggle ahead as he weighs a series of problematic options.

In permitting members of the Navy Seals to shoot the pirates holding the captain, Richard Phillips, Mr. Obama navigated a crisis that played out in full view of the world. But policy makers and experts said the precision killing of three Somali pirates with three bullets would certainly prove easier than wiping out the larger threat in the shipping lanes or reversing the instability that makes Somalia a breeding ground for pirates and Islamic terrorists.


14 April 2009

[...] The political and economic situation in Somalia is anything but stable. Since 1991 a civil war has been raging as different warlord factions attempt to take control of the country. What’s more, a number of states within Somalia have self-declared themselves as autonomous, yet not independent. [...] It is no wonder, then, that as many as 1,000 men now run in pirate gangs along the coast. Somalia is situated on the Horn of Africa, making it a prime area to attack passing ships. At first the intent was to deter fishing boats from poaching in Somali waters, but as time progressed it became its own lucrative business. It does, however, threaten the stream of humanitarian aid into the region, with as much as 90% of the World Food Programme’s deliveries are moved via ship, which now require a costly military escort. This rise in cost of transporting the food means that there is less to spend on the food itself.


14 April 2009

[...] Piracy is apparently Somalia's biggest industry – and individual pirates are among the troubled country's wealthiest men. [...] It's hard to quantify pirates' effect on the regional and global economies, but anecdotal evidence abounds. [...] In December, Khalid Shapi, director of a tourism firm in Mombasa, in southern Kenya, warned that cruise ships were beginning to avoid East Africa owing to piracy, rendering jobless thousands of Kenyan tourism workers. Jemma Lembere, a logistics manager for the UN World Food Programme in Mombasa, said that ship owners have been reluctant to take on UN contracts hauling the food aid that feeds half of Somalia's 8 million people. Only with the $10m deployment of a European Union naval force, in December, were ship's crews willing to make the dangerous aid run into Mogadishu.


13 April 2009

US Navy snipers have dramatically ended a high-seas standoff with Somali pirates, rescuing a US captain held hostage on a lifeboat for five days, killing three of his four captors. [...] Phillips had been held aboard the lifeboat since the pirates attacked his cargo ship, the US-flagged Maersk Alabama, on Wednesday. The unarmed American crew managed to regain control of the ship, but the pirates captured Phillips and bundled him into the lifeboat as they escaped. The 20-crew ship had been bound for Mombasa, Kenya, carrying provisions for the UN World Food Program, including 4097 tonnes of soya and maize and 990 tonnes of cooking oil for vulnerable populations in Somalia, Uganda and Kenya. It docked safely in the port Saturday and its crew remain onboard while the FBI investigates Wednesday's attack.


10 April 2009

The Somali pirates' hijacking of the 508-foot U.S.-flagged container ship Maersk Alabama two days ago merely crowns a growing trend. [...] There were six attacks this past week alone before the seizure of the American ship, which was carrying food and agricultural products to Mombasa, Kenya, to supply the World Food Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development. At the moment, pirates are holding some 14 ships for ransom. [...] Taming Somali pirates will ultimately require rebuilding the Somali state in such a way that young men can both find viable means of support other than maritime banditry and be subject to law enforcement.


9 April 2009

Warlords and militias terrorizing villages. No functioning government, courts or police. Drought and hunger afflicting half the country. That's the situation in Somalia driving the epidemic of piracy off its coast, experts say. The chaos means there are no easy military or diplomatic solutions for the U.S. and allies to prevent attacks such as the one on the Maersk Alabama on Wednesday. [...] Attempts to alleviate poverty, which could reduce the need for Somalis to turn to crime, have fallen short. The U.N. World Food Program put out a $900 million appeal for aid to Somalia this year, but only 26% has been raised, said Dawn Elizabeth Blalock, a U.N. spokeswoman.


9 April 2009

The U.S.-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama is heading to port in Mombasa, Kenya, a day after it was hijacked off Somalia's coast, the father of one of the crew members said Thursday. An 18-man armed security detail is on board to make sure the vessel and the 20 crew members get there safely, Capt. Joe Murphy said. It is about a 50-hour journey. FBI negotiators are trying to secure the release of the Maersk Alabama's captain, who is still being held by the Somali hijackers in a lifeboat. [...] The vessel was carrying relief supplies for USAID, the U.N. World Food Program and the Christian charities WorldVision and Catholic Relief Services. The U.N. agency said its portion of the cargo included nearly 4,100 metric tons of corn-soya blend bound for Somalia and Uganda, and another 990 metric tons of vegetable oil for refugees in Kenya.