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6 April 2009

Somalia's prime minister has ordered all aid agencies working in the lawless Horn of Africa nation to register with the new government for their own safety. The country is suffering one of the world's worst humanitarian catastrophes. A two-year Islamist rebellion has killed more than 16,000 civilians, driven another 1 million from their homes and left about 3 million dependent on food aid. Complicating operations for aid workers, large parts of south and central Somalia are under the control of hardline al Shabaab insurgents and allied Islamist fighters.


30 March 2009

A second group of Chinese navy escort ships will set sail for the Gulf of Aden Thursday to replace a flotilla sent earlier to guard against pirates. The new task force will comprise the destroyer, Shenzhen, and frigate Huangshan, as well as the supply ship, Weishanhu, which served in the first escort mission. With two helicopters and total crew exceeding 800, including navy special forces, it is mainly tasked with ensuring the safety of Chinese vessels passing through the gulf and waters off Somalia and those of international organizations like the World Food Program shipping humanitarian goods.


29 March 2009

Somalia's hard-line Islamists on Sunday invited international aid groups to regions under their control to assist thousands of hunger-stricken people. "We are openly calling aid agencies to operate freely in the region in order to help thousands of people in the drought-hit areas of the country," al-Shabab Islamic movement commander Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abuu-Mansoor told reporters. "We appreciate how they have assisted the people in the past and wish they continue doing the same," he added. [...] The World Food Program has offices in Wajid, a major food distribution center for the region. [..] Kidnappings of foreign aid workers and journalists by ransom-seeking armed groups are frequent in conflict-wracked Somalia. U.N. agencies attempting to deliver food aid have been repeatedly targeted. and four WFP employees have been killed since August last year.


26 March 2009

NATO's anti-piracy flotilla will resume patrols off the Horn of Africa soon, joining an international squadron already operating in the region, the alliance said Thursday. A NATO statement said the five ships will reach the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coastline within days. They will do a stint with the anti-piracy patrols there before sailing on for a tour of Southeast Asia. "This is another contribution by the alliance to the overall international effort to tackle piracy in this part of the world," spokesman James Appathurai said. "We have many partners alongside us and it appears that international efforts seem to be having a positive effect." The NATO flotilla, codenamed Allied Provider, is to return to Europe in June but at least some of its warships may stay on station to help monitor the waters of the Gulf of Aden. The flotilla of ships from Portugal, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States is commanded by a Portuguese admiral. Pirate attacks in the busy sea lanes off the Somali coastline hit unprecedented levels in 2008, and NATO responded to appeals by the United Nations by deploying a three-warship flotilla to escort World Food Program cargo vessels carrying desperately needed food aid to Somalia.


26 March 2009

NATO's anti-piracy flotilla will resume patrols off the Horn of Africa soon, joining an international squadron already operating in the region, the alliance said Thursday. A NATO statement said the five ships will reach the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coastline within days. They will do a stint with the anti-piracy patrols there before sailing on for a tour of Southeast Asia. [...] Pirate attacks in the busy sea lanes off the Somali coastline hit unprecedented levels in 2008, and NATO responded to appeals by the United Nations by deploying a three-warship flotilla to escort World Food Program cargo vessels carrying desperately needed food aid to Somalia.


26 March 2009

Pirates armed with machine guns pursued and captured a Norwegian chemical tanker off the coast of Somalia on Thursday, the owners said, less than 24 hours after a smaller Greek-owned vessel was seized in the same area. The U.S. 5th Fleet, which patrols the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, confirmed both hijackings and said they happened in the same area but separate from the gulf, one of the world's busiest — and now most treacherous — sea lanes. [...] An earlier NATO mission — sent to the region in October in response to appeals by the United Nations — was replaced in December by an EU flotilla. Its main task is to escort cargo ships chartered by the U.N. World Food Program carrying humanitarian aid to Somalia, which has been without a functioning government since 1991.


26 March 2009

Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees holed up in northern Kenya face a "humanitarian emergency" this year as disease starts spreading through overcrowded camps, Oxfam warned on Friday. [...] Aid workers say the humanitarian situation in Somalia is the worst in the world. Fighting has killed more than 17,000 civilians since the start of 2007, one million more have been driven from their homes and about a third of the population -- more than 3 million people -- need emergency food aid.


26 March 2009

At least 15,000 Somalis, who had fled to the self-declared republic of Somaliland to escape violence in Mogadishu, want to return home following the recent change of government but lack the means to do so, aid workers said. [...] "The families want to return due to the difficult conditions they live in here," Zainab Mohamud, head of the Gashan Women's Development Organisation, who works with the displaced families, told IRIN on 25 March. [...] She said the families had received some food aid from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) but little else.


19 March 2009

Despite the launch of "one of the largest anti-piracy flotillas in modern history," the clan-organized taking of vessels off the coast of Somalia will only cease when order is restored to the Horn of Africa nation, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a report released here on Wednesday. (...) Of great concern to the United Nations, Ban said, is the safety of vessels carrying food and other aid on which some 2.4 million Somalis depend, 95 percent of which arrives by sea and which was threatened by the 2007 attack on a ship contracted by the World Food Program (WFP).


19 March 2009

The United Nations agencies said more than 14,000 new Somali refugees have been registered in Kenya in January, adding to a refugee population which already far exceeds the capacity of existing camps and support mechanisms. "New arrivals are expected to continue during the course of the year. Therefore, there is an immediate need to decongest existing camps and accommodate arrivals in new camps with adequate infrastructure," said OCHA, citing figures from the UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF.