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Last Updated: Monday, 19 November 2007, 16:41 GMT
French navy deters Somali pirates
Somali pirates (file pic)
Piracy is a major problem for shipping off Somalia
The French navy has escorted two ships carrying food aid to Somalia to deter possible attacks from pirates.

The waters off the war-torn country are among the most dangerous in the world - 26 ships, including three carrying food aid, have been attacked this year.

Some 580,000 Somalis have fled their homes in 2007 due to increased conflict, the UN says. The country has also been ravaged by drought.

Many of the displaced are living in desperate conditions.

The World Food Programme says they are camped on the sides of roads during the rainy season - without shelter, or the most basic sanitation and medical assistance.

France says it will continue its escort operation for two months.

The ships transported 3,650 metric tons of food aid from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to Merka, 100 km (60 miles) south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

"This operation comes at a critical time for the Somali people who have been devastated by some of the worst conflict and drought seen in years," said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran.

"Piracy has damaged our ability to reach Somalia's most vulnerable people. We cannot tackle this challenge alone and are grateful to those helping to protect our ships."

The attacks have led the WFP to transport some food to Somalia by road, which is far more expensive.

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