The European Commission strongly condemns the Al Shabaab announcement of the expulsion of 16 humanitarian aid agencies working in Somalia. This action will have disastrous effects on the capacity of humanitarian agencies to respond to the current emergency fuelled by prolonged conflict and drought.
‘With limited access to humanitarian aid, thousands of Somalis will inevitably attempt to cross the borders and seek assistance in neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya,’ says Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner responsible for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and civil response.
‘Refugee camps in these two countries have been struggling to cope with the dramatic influx of people witnessed during the peak of the Horn of Africa crisis. A new wave of refugees will further strain the humanitarian coping capacity in these camps,’ explains Commissioner Georgieva. ‘Recent military activity inside South Central Somalia will make this last-resort journey even more perilous than it was a few months ago.’
Many of the targeted agencies are key implementing partners of the European Commission humanitarian response in Somalia. ‘The expulsion of our partners has a direct impact on the European Commission's capacity to assist the most vulnerable members of the Somali population,’ says Commissioner Georgieva. These agencies were implementing life-saving interventions such as ensuring access to basic health services, and providing food and water.
This latest action comes at a time when parts of south and central Somalia were slowly recovering from one of the worse droughts in decades: three out of six areas where famine was declared were recently taken off the 'famine' alert. The expulsion of aid agencies helping vulnerable people rebuild their lives is likely to wipe out the small gains that have been achieved so far.
‘At stake are the lives of Somali women and children who bear the brunt of prolonged conflict and recurrent harsh climatic conditions,’ says Commissioner Georgieva. ‘We urge Al-Shabaab to immediately reverse the ban and respect International Humanitarian Law. We will continue to strive to help and try to find other ways to reach the most vulnerable people.’
The European Commission has been supporting humanitarian projects in Somalia since early 1994. In 2011 the Commission allocated €77 million to food security, health, nutrition, shelter, water sanitation, hygiene promotion, livelihood support, and coordination of aid. The aid is channeled through partners including the International Red Cross Committee, UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations.
Before this latest announcement, 18 aid agencies had already been expelled from Somalia. The limited number of international humanitarian agencies able to operate in parts of Somalia has made humanitarian operations even more challenging, and reduced access to those in need.