The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today began a distribution of food to 122,500 Somalis affected by violence while warning that piracy is hampering its operations. “We are expanding our distributions to the displaced – many of whom are women and children – with this round of distributions, which means WFP should be reaching 80 per cent of the 150,000 we plan to feed,” said Peter Goossens, the agency’s Somalia Country Director in Nairobi. “But just when we are reaching more people, incidents of piracy against ships off Somalia are again on the rise and are threatening to cut the fastest and most efficient way – by sea – to move large amounts of food assistance to the needy in Somalia during this crisis,” he said. Mr. Goossens charged that the pirates “are very cruelly playing with the lives of the most vulnerable women and children who had to leave their homes because of fighting” and appealed to the Somali authorities to act “before they cause more misery both to the crews of hijacked ships and to the people who rely on WFP food for their survival.” The recent distribution follows aid deliveries in late April and early May to 114,000 displaced people and returnees. The United Nations estimates that between 300,000 and 400,000 people fled Mogadishu since 1 February. Somalia has recently experienced its worst fighting in 16 years between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by Ethiopian forces, and anti-TFG factions. 18 May 2007The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today began a distribution of food to 122,500 Somalis affected by violence while warning that piracy is hampering its operations.