Piracy may stop flow of food aid

By May 22, 2007

Somalia (MNN) — The conditions for the displaced of Somalia have not improved since we last reported on them in late April. Nearly 35,000 have been displaced because of the worst violence in 16 years. 

World Vision
is currently the only organization offering health care services in the Burhakaba, while the numbers of those that need care continue to increase. The most common illnesses are respiritory tract infections and acute diarrhea. The supplies are diminishing. 

"Without rapid intervention, malnutrition is also expected to increase," said Sharif Haji, World Vision's primary healthcare coordinator in Somalia. 

So far, four ships bringing food supplies have been intercepted by pirates off the coast of Somalia. "This attack underscores the growing problem of piracy off Somalia which, if unresolved, will sever the main artery of food assistance to the country and to the people who rely on it for their survival," said World Food Programme's executive director Josette Sheeran. 

The next ship scheduled to travel to Somalia has refused to go until they are given an armed escort. "We urge key nations to do their utmost to address the plague of piracy, which is now threatening our ability to feed one million Somalis," said Sheeran.

Piracy has been a problem off Somalia's coast since the 1990's when the country slid into lawlessness. Last year, the World Food Programme halted deliveries for weeks after
two of its ships were hijacked. 

Clean water is also becoming difficult to find in the Burhakaba area, since locals as well as the displaced must share a single water catchment. This has forced some to travel up to two-thirds of a mile to reach a water source. 

At this point, the displaced must rely on handouts from strangers and local family members in order to survive. While World Vision has reported that some families are returning home, others are skeptical.

Besides water and food, needs include blankets, mosquito nets, and medication for communicable diseases.

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