Global Policy Forum

Row Over Aid to Fleeing Somalis

April 25, 2007

Somalia's interim government is suspected of preventing humanitarian aid from urgently reaching people who have fled fighting in the capital.

Western diplomats say demands to inspect all aid shipments was adding to the misery, AP news agency reports. Earlier, the UN humanitarian chief said insecurity, checkpoint harassment and new administrative directives have all obstructed humanitarian efforts. An estimated 320,000 people have left Mogadishu since February, the UN says. This is the eighth consecutive day of clashes between Ethiopian troops backing the interim government and insurgents and fighters from the city's dominant Hawiye clan. Ethiopia's prime minister says he hopes to have routed the insurgents within a fortnight.

'Free tests'

UN, EU and US diplomats in the region have all appealed to the government to stop complicating aid delivery. "The efforts of international agencies to come to the aid of these stricken people are being thwarted on the one hand by militia looting relief supplies, demanding 'taxes' and violently threatening aid workers, and on the other by administrative obstacles imposed by the transitional federal government," AP news agency quotes a letter written last week by the German ambassador to Kenya. Earlier, US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger wrote that "these practices are unacceptable and undermine the legitimacy of your government".

A doctor just outside Mogadishu told the BBC about the difficulties of running her own maternity clinic. "Around my hospital there are 2,000 families, mostly children and women," Hawa Abdi told the BBC's Network Africa programme. "There is no food or shelter. We have a small quantity of water, but we aren't able to get water from the well. The UNHCR reached us and gave us small plastic shelters, but it is not enough." Dr Abdi said she is trying to care for all who come to the clinic, both those who come to give birth, and those wounded in the fighting. Other medical staff have arrived from hospitals that have been damaged in the fighting in the centre of the capital. "Some people are injured, and they are coming to my hospital. I am not practising clan-discrimination as others are. If there is land where they can live, I will give them my land, and water free. Also medical tests I do free," she said. "Other doctors are coming from Mogadishu where there was heavy shelling of the Hayat hospital, and also from the Arafat hospital they are coming to help me."

In a meeting with the government, the UN's humanitarian chief John Holmes received promises that things would change. "They have assured us of full support for humanitarian access and humanitarian workers," he said. Somalia has not had a functional government since 1991. A transitional government was formed in 2004, but has so far failed to take full control of the country. Ethiopian troops have started to withdraw, to be replaced by an African Union peacekeeping force, but only 1,200 of the 8,000 troops the AU says it needs have been deployed.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on Somalia
More Information on Ethiopia and Eritrea


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