Agencies delivering food aid to Somalia face more hazards in transporting their goods by land than they do by sea, an aid official told The Media Line.
The hijacking of a ship off the coasts of Somalia has raised security concerns in the industry and is likely to hamper efforts to bring food to the needy population.
“Ship transport is the most efficient and most effective way of getting food into Somalia,” Penny Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program said.
“The alternative would be to truck all of that food through Somalia,” she added.
“Many of the areas that you’d have to drive through on land can be quite insecure. We take security consideration carefully into account when we make decisions about how to transport our commodities. We choose the way that’s safest and most effective.”
Somalia is a large country that requires large quantities of food assistance, especially since its population has suffered drought, flood and conflict in the last 12 months alone.
Pirates hijacked the MV Rozen with its 12 crew members on board near the semi-autonomous Puntland region on Sunday, after it had dropped off 1,800 tons of emergency food supplies in the country. The vessel was heading back to its chief port in Kenya.
A U.S. Navy warship has been sent to the region to monitor the situation from a distance.
Also, the Somali authorities have arrested at least four people suspected to be connected with the hijacking, officials said.
The MV Rozen is the third vessel contracted by the WFP that has been hijacked. The previous two ships were captured in 2005. One was held for 33 hours and the second was held for 100 days.
At the time, the WFP temporarily suspended its use of shipping to deliver food due to the security risk involved. This is the first incident of a hijacking since they resumed their use of shipping.
It is still too early to determine how the hijacking will impact the organization’s delivery strategy and any decision will be taken after taking all factors into account, Ferguson said.
The number of piracy incidents drastically dropped last year after Islamist fighters, who took control of the capital, clamped down on the hijackers, partly in a bid to protect their weapons shipments.
But there are fears of an upsurge in piracy since the Islamists were defeated by Somali government forces backed by Ethiopian troops in early January.
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