Somalia crisis deteriorates, aid agencies warn

Published: 26 March 2008

Statement comes as UN Security Council members meet to discuss Somalia.

On October 30, 2007, 39 NGOs warned of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Somalia and an impending humanitarian catastrophe. Since then, the crisis engulfing Somalia has deteriorated dramatically while access to people in need continues to decrease; 360,000 people have been newly displaced and an additional half a million people are reliant on humanitarian assistance.

There are now more than one million internally displaced people in Somalia.  Intense conflict in Mogadishu continues to force an average of 20,000 people from their homes each month. This, combined with record high food prices, hyperinflation and drought in large parts of the country is leaving communities struggling to survive. Extreme water and food shortages are expected to worsen across the country if the seasonal rains (April - June) fail as they are predicted to.

As the crisis worsens, Somali and international aid agencies are unable to respond adequately to the needs. Attacks on, and killings of, aid workers, the looting of relief supplies, and a lack of respect for international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict have left two million Somalis in need of basic humanitarian assistance.

For too long, the needs of ordinary Somalis have been forgotten. The undersigned agencies are asking the international community and all parties to the conflict to urgently focus their attention on the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Somalia. They must ensure access for humanitarian supplies, live up to their responsibility to protect civilians and address the environment of impunity. The humanitarian crisis will become more and more complex and will continue to deepen in the absence of a political solution to the current crisis.

Agencies signatory to this statement

1.    Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED)

2.    Adventist Relief Development Agency (ADRA)

3.    African Relief and Development Program (ARDP)

4.    Caritas Swiss Group (CARITAS Swiss Group)

5.    Cooperative Assistance for Relief Everywhere (CARE)

6.    Concern Worldwide (CONCERN)

7.    Coperazione Internazionale (COOPI)

8.    Diakonie Emergency Aid Bread for the World (DBG)

9.    Diakonia Sweden (Diakonia Sweden)

10.    Development Initiative Access Link (DIAL)

11.    Danish Refugee Council (DRC)

12.    Gedo Health Consortium (GHC)

13.    Global Organization for Health and Development (GOHED)

14.    Gothenberg Initiative (GI)

15.    Gol Yome Rehabilitation & Development Organization (GREDO)

16.    Humanitarian Action for Relief and Development Organization (HARDO)

17.    Himilo Foundation (HIMILO)

18.    HISAN – WEPA (HISAN)

19.    Horn Relief (Horn Relief)

20.    International Aid Services (IAS)

21.    Institute of Education for Disabled People in Somalia (IEDSOM)

22.    International Medical Corps (IMC)

23.    International Rescue Committee (IRC)

24.    Interpeace/ War Torn Societies (Interpeace)

25.    Medicins du Monde (MDM)

26.    Mercy Corps Somalia (Mercy Corps Somalia)

27.    Merlin (Merlin)

28.    Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

29.    Oxfam International (Oxfam International)

30.    Progressio (Progressio)

31.    Relief International (RI)

32.    SAACID Australia (SAACID Australia)

33.    Saferworld (Saferworld)

34.    Save the Children UK (SC-UK)

35.    Terra Nouva Association for international Cooperation to Development (Terra Nouva)

36.    Education Small Scale Enterprise Food Security & Resource Emergency Response (TROCAIRE)

37.    VETAID (VETAID)

38.    WETHULNGERHILFE/ German Agro Action (GAA)

39.    World Concern International (World Concern)

40.    World Vision (World Vision)

Notes to Editors

UN Security Council members will this week consider the Secretary General’s 21st March report on Somalia. At this important time NGOs feel it is vital to make a statement highlighting the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Somalia to ensure that these concerns are part of the debate and with the hope that they are reflected in any decisions made by the Security Council.

The Humanitarian Crisis

82% of the newly displaced people have concentrated in the regions that already face the worst problems in the country in terms food access, collapsing livelihoods, drought and emergency nutrition levels.

The 15-kilometer stretch of road between Mogadishu and the town of Afgooye, now host to approximately 250,000 people displaced this year, has been described by the UN as probably the single largest IDP gathering in the world today.

According to UNICEF Somalia is the worst place in the world for children. Approximately one in seven children under the age of five in Somalia are acutely malnourished.

Drought is worsening in central and parts of northern Somalia and there is urgent need to increase humanitarian assistance in the affected areas. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, in collaboration with the UN’s FAO Food Security Analysis Unit, recently issued a warning stating that another poor Gu rainy season from April to June (predicted) would further aggravate the already precarious food security situation in these regions – increasing the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance and leaving many facing high to extreme levels of food insecurity.

The cash income of the families left in Mogadishu (the poorest of the poor who do not have the means to flee) is now $12.13 per month. Assuming the average family size in Somalia is 6.9, this works out as $1.76 per person per month – or six cents per person per day. This will buy someone three rolls of bread.

Continuing insecurity, hyperinflation (including record high food and non-food prices) and drought over the next few months can only lead to a further deterioration in the humanitarian crisis.

Access / Security Indicators

UN OCHA reports that efforts to assist the people of Somalia have never been as restricted as they are now.

Numerous obstacles continue to limit humanitarian space in Somalia; General insecurity, administrative delays, restrictions or delays in movement of goods, targeting of humanitarian workers and assets including the looting of aid and carjackings, piracy, negative perception of humanitarian workers, targeting civil society and media, localised disputes/competition over resources, lack of will and/or ability by authorities to address security incidents within their control.

There is a growing climate of fear and uncertainty in most of Somalia. Previously safe areas are now becoming inaccessible due to spreading insecurity.

Six aid workers have been killed since the beginning of 2008 causing some agencies to remove all their international staff from Somalia. In Puntland in particular, several kidnapping incidents have led to the complete withdrawal of international staff from the region. NGO Security Office reports that the security situation for NGOs operating in Somalia will not improve in the near future.

The number of checkpoints and roadblocks now stands at 396 in the country as a whole compared with approximately 147 in January 2007.

At a meeting earlier in March, over 150 leaders of Somali Civil Society, called on all parties to the conflict to enable humanitarian access for immediate emergency response by both Somali and international agencies.

Contact Information

For more background information – please contact:

Andrea Pattison – Oxfam Novib Media and Information Officer
Mob: +254 (0) 736 476 514
Email: andrea.pattison@oxfamnovib.or.ke

Beatrice Spadacini - Communications and Media Manager – Care International
Mob: +254 (0) 725 221 036
Email: spadacini@ci.or.ke

Susannah Friedman - Emergency Coordinator - Save the Children (UK)
Mob: +254 (0) 733 628 192
Email: S.Emergency@scuk.or.ke