Foreign governments have been urged by the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide navale escorts, in order to protect its food ships from pirates off the Somali coast.
On Friday, the United Nations’ food agency warned that the lives of millions of starving people are threatened by disruptions to food shipments and attacks on aid workers inside the country.
Peter Goossens, the WFP country director for Somalia, said that if the threats continue, the Horn of Africa nation risks all-out famine.
Over the last eight months, French, Danish and Dutch naval escorts had proved invaluable support. But beyond June, the UN agency has received no commitments for further escorts, he said.
By December, according to the WFP, the overall number of people in need of food assistance is expected to rise to 3.5 million, up from at least 2.6 million now. In Somalia, about 90 per cent of food aid arrives by sea.
“Somalia is at a dire crossroads”, said Mr Goossens.
“If sufficient food and other humanitarian assistance cannot be scaled up in the coming months, parts of the country could well be in the grips of disaster similar to the 1992-1993 famine.”
The country’s administration was poorly equipped to deal with attacks on aid agencies and non-governmental organisations, said Abdi Awaleh Jama, ambassador for Somalia’s transitional government.
He told Al Jazeera that “those who are attacking the [aid workers] are the enemies of the Somali government. Of course they are going to be the winner; the losers will be the affected population of Somalia. The international community should not allow that to happen”.
“The only viable solution would be for these aid workers to regroup where the government forces are … in the areas which [the government forces] control.”
“We call on the international community to accelerate the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping forces in Somalia as soon as possible to avert a disaster.”
After a transport agent working for the WFP was shot dead on Sunday in southern Somalia, the UN issued fresh protests about the security situation in Somalia. The man was the fifth WFP-contracted worker, and the twelfth aid worker to be killed in the country this year.
Because of increase security threats, which are largely blamed on fighters from the Union of Islamic Courts, operations have been scaled down by aid groups.
Since early 2007, when they were ousted by joint Somali-Ethiopian forces, the Union of Islamic Courts has waged a guerrilla war.
Somalia is a desert nation of up to 10 million people, ravaged by war since 1991, when Mohamed Siad Barre, the former president, was forced from power.
Although a ceasefire came into force on July 9 between the UN-backed interim government and opposition forces, it has repeatedly been violated.
Recently, the latest violence occured : an army camp in Mogadishu came under attack, which triggered clashes that claimed the lives of four civilians.