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26 February 2009

How many people still live in Somalia? No one knows. The UN says around 10m. Just as Somalia’s problems of jihadism and piracy have gone global, so have its people. [...] Dozens of aid workers, campaigners and journalists, most of them locals, have been killed in the past year or so. Hundreds more have been beaten, threatened or forced into exile. [...] Just as this correspondent was about to visit southern Somalia with people from the UN’s World Food Programme, the trip was cancelled when two of the agency’s workers were shot dead and a third died on an airstrip waiting for medical help.


22 February 2009

Gunmen kidnapped a Pakistani national working on a farming project in Somalia's semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland on Sunday, a government official said. [...] Two Somali nationals working for the U.N.'s World Food Programme were killed by gunmen last month in the south of the Horn of Africa nation.


20 February 2009

NATO defense ministers have agreed to carry out another anti-piracy naval operation off the coast of Somalia, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced on Thursday. "You can expect to see another, what we call, Standing NATO Maritime Group off the coast of Somalia in the coming months, contributing to the overall international (anti-piracy) effort," he told a press conference at the NATO defense ministers' meeting. He said, however, details of the operation remain to be worked out. The ships will be from the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, which consists of six warships, he said. [...] NATO carried out its first anti-piracy mission off Somalia between October and December 2008. Four NATO warships were deployed, resulting in the safe delivery of 30,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Somalia by the World Food Program.


20 February 2009

NATO's new anti-piracy flotilla will leave next month bound for the Horn of Africa where it will join an EU task force already patrolling the region, Germany's defense minister said Friday. Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said Germany will contribute a frigate and a tanker to the six-vessel naval squadron. They will join the EU task force, code-named Operation Atalanta, which is the first naval action undertaken by the bloc. Other nations — including the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Norway, Denmark and the U.S. — also have offered their warships to the anti-piracy force known as the Standing NATO Maritime Group I. [...] Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and nearly half the population is dependent on aid. This is provided mainly by the U.N. World Food Program, whose chartered ships had repeatedly come under pirate attack before the original NATO flotilla arrived in November.


17 February 2009

Hardline Islamist insurgents in southern Somalia told international aid agencies on Tuesday to hand out all the food aid in their warehouses, or leave the Horn of Africa nation. Islamist al Shabaab rebels and allied groups control large swathes of southern and central Somalia while the government has little influence on the ground beyond a few blocks of the capital Mogadishu. [...] Hussein Abdi Gheddi, the governor of middle Jubba region in southern Somalia and a member of al Shabaab, told the World Food Programme (WFP) and World Vision to hand out their food. "We are telling them to leave the region, or else to distribute the food aid in the stores for the people in the region," Gheddi told Reuters by telephone from the town of Buale. Gunmen killed two WFP workers in January and the U.N. agency said on Tuesday it was seeking new security commitments from armed groups to conduct food distribution. "We are sending our teams around south, central Somalia asking for a security commitment that we will be allowed to operate and our staff will not be attacked," said WFP spokesman, Peter Smerdon, in neighbouring Kenya. "We will not risk the lives of our staff if armed groups don't give us such commitments," he said.


17 February 2009

Somalia has the sad distinction of being the quintessential failed state. It is also one of the most underreported disasters in the world. The one phenomenon that penetrates international headlines—piracy—is the offshore symptom of a land-based problem. [...] It is therefore most unsettling, to say the least, when a special representative of the secretary-general of the United Nations for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, speaks about the work of Somali journalists in highly derogatory, indeed inflammatory terms. [...] In the humanitarian community—to which I migrated from the world of pure journalism—our operating space is also shrinking due to security concerns, and Somalia is among the most dangerous places in the world. In 2008, two dozen aid workers were reported killed in Somalia, and this year, two employees of the World Food Program were shot dead, while four employees of Action Against Hunger and two European Commission-contracted pilots are currently being held hostage along with around 20 other humanitarian workers.


14 February 2009

[...] The frigate HMS Northumberland has just completed her first main convoy escort of merchant shipping in the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia. Leaving the Kenyan port of Mombasa in late January, the frigate was protecting four merchant vessels carrying cargoes of food vital to the famine relief effort in Somalia as part of the EU-led counter-piracy operation codenamed Atalanta. [...] Throughout this time, and especially as they came close inshore, Northumberland with her detachment of Royal Marines was at constant high alert — but the handover of food aid to Somali and World Food Programme security forces was accomplished without incident.


11 February 2009

Somali pirates are poised for renewed attacks on shipping off the coast of Somalia, according to the Royal Navy's Cdr Gerry Northwood, the head of operations for the EU's anti-piracy taskforce, codenamed Operation Atalanta. The multinational force, commanded by a British Rear Admiral, was deployed in December with the principal aim of protecting vulnerable food ships travelling to Somalia.


11 February 2009

A camp to accommodate thousands of Somalis fleeing violence in their country is to be set up in south-eastern Ethiopia, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said. An estimated 10,000 asylum-seekers have arrived at the border town of Dolo Ado, in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, since the beginning of the year, according to Save the Children and UNHCR. [...] Last week, UNHCR dispatched six trucks carrying relief items, including mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen utensils, plastic sheets and mats from Addis Ababa to Dolo Ado. The UN World Food Programme also sent food rations, enough to last 10,000 asylum-seekers two weeks, and was airlifting high-nutrition biscuits from its emergency stock in Tanzania.


5 February 2009

A growing tide of Somalis fleeing conflict at home has led to overcrowding in refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and the United Nations does not expect the influx to ease soon, a U.N. official said. The Dadaab refugee camp in arid northern Kenya received 62,000 new arrivals from Somalia in 2008 compared with only 18,000 in the previous year, U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said. [...] Aid workers say Somalia's humanitarian crisis -- in which a third of the 10 million population needs food aid -- is the worst in the world.