Tuesday, May 29, 2012
15 relief agencies warn humanitarian needs in Somalia must not be ignored as over 2 million still in dire need of assistance.
15 relief agencies working to save lives and provide vital basic services in Somalia are calling on the international community to maintain their support for humanitarian needs in the country. Agencies are fearful that a political vision for Somalia’s future development may come at the cost of lifesaving interventions for communities still caught up in the country’s conflict and only just recovering from the devastating effects of last year’s food crisis and famine. Agencies are calling for an approach that balances the immediate needs and basic rights of communities in cris20is, whilst ensuring appropriate long term planning for a stable and peaceful future for Somalia.
Later this week, world leaders will gather in Istanbul to discuss the future of Somalia, focusing on building of infrastructure and on longer-term development issues. This is a welcome initiative by the Turkish Government and provides vital momentum and attention to Somalia’s future. However, the needs of 2.5 million people experiencing the day to day reality of violence, disease and hunger should not be forgotten. The country continues to suffer from a major food crisis. Although famine conditions have subsided, malnutrition rates are still unacceptably high, according to the FSNAU. To date, only 23 per cent of the US$ 1.5 billion appeal to cover urgent humanitarian needs for Somalis has been met and there is increasing concern that the immediate needs of communities in crisis are being overshadowed by political agendas.
On a daily basis, civilians are caught in the cross-fire of one of the world’s longest running conflicts, risking death and injury from mortars, suicide bombers, rapes, assaults and deprivation of basic human services like water, food, shelter and health care. Children are particularly at risk of dying from preventable diseases like cholera and measles. At present, 1.36 million people are internally displaced, and over a million Somalis are refugees, after having been forced to flee. Mogadishu hosts some 184,000 internally displaced people who have no durable solutions in sight, and many urban poor in need of continued humanitarian assistance to make it through the day. These needs must not be forgotten, and the rights of communities in crisis prioritised when considering long term development planning.
Despite multiple externally led political processes, the situation on the ground is still far from stable. Armed conflict continues to cause tremendous human suffering and access for humanitarian organizations is “extremely limited” in most parts of South Central Somalia. What international actors describe as “liberated areas” or “safe havens” are in fact so dangerous that f1ew humanitarian agencies risk sending their employees there.
The international community’s support to Somali civilians should not be an “either emergency or development” issue, but must recognize that there is a need to both continue supporting humanitarian assistance based on people’s needs, as well as encouraging longer-term development investment. In respect of this, Governments attending the Istanbul conference should be reminded to uphold Good Humanitarian Donorship commitments and be guided by the principles of humanity and impartiality. Support to interventions should be based primarily on the need to alleviate suffering and poverty and not to the priorities of politics. This means also not ignoring ongoing humanitarian needs in Somaliland and Puntland.
At this stage in the Somalia crisis, encouraging interventions that strengthen communities’ resilience to shocks and foster durable, peaceful resolution of conflict at a grassroots level are critical. Increased attention should therefore be given to linking relief, recovery and development support, to reduce gaps and maximize the efficiency and impact of humanitarian assistance. Somali voices, whilst welcoming the support of the international community, must be the loudest in these processes.
The signatory agencies are:
• Adeso – African Development Solutions
• Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED)
• American Friends Service Committee
• CARE International
• International Rescue Committee
• Kaalo Relief & Development
• Mercy Corps
• Relief International
• STS Denmark
• World Vision Somalia