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DJIBOUTI: The European Union says it has protected 259 World Food Programme (WFP)-chartered vessels carrying 880,000 tonnes of aid to Somalia.

EU Somalia protectionIn 2009, the EU's Operation Atalanta was set up to protect vulnerable shipping in the Gulf of Aden and Western Indian Ocean. Since then the EU says not one WFP ship has been attacked by pirates.

Between 2009 and 2012, all WFP ships carrying aid to Somalia had to be escorted by EU warships. Since then, some have been provided with an armed military security team (AVPD) aboard the vessels instead.

The WFP is using the 6,000 DWT MV Caroline Scan to deliver aid to Somalia. Since 2011 it has carried over 127,000 tonnes without incident. Currently, the ship is protected by a Serbian military security team.

Commenting on the EU protection, WFP country representative for Somalia, Stefano Porretti said: "The continuing collaboration between EU Naval Force and the UN's World Food Programme plays a pivotal role in enabling WFP to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities in Somalia. EU Naval Force's protection through its AVPD system on board the Caroline Scan (below) has proven to be an effective deterrent against attacks on WFP's time chartered vessel and it has ensured the uninterrupted and timely flow of aid to Somalia."

Caroline ScanThe aid organization says the situation in Somalia has continued to improve since the crisis of 2011, when four million people experienced extreme food insecurity and famine. However, despite consistent improvement in the overall situation, 870,000 Somalis remain in "crisis" or "emergency" conditions says the WFP. A further 2.3 million --one third of Somalia's population - are struggling to meet their minimum daily needs.

Elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, the U.S. is expanding military interdiction operations in Somalia from a former French Foreign Legion base in Djibouti. According to the country's foreign minister, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, the missile strikes by drones against al-Shabab and al-Qaeda leaders "are very useful" to counter the terrorist threat to the region. In addition to the U.S., France, Germany, Italy and Japan all have a military presence in Djibouti.

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