Somalia: Humanitarian Crisis Looms as Conditions Deteriorate

Response to the crisis hampered by growing insecurity and misconceptions

The Somali population is trapped between harsh basic conditions and increasing insecurity. Hundreds of thousands of people rely on foreign aid to survive. But security threats against humanitarian workers are increasing to dangerous levels which may hamper vital assistance.

Action Against Hunger | ACF International, an international humanitarian organization working in Somalia since 1992, relies on all actors to be able to continue providing crucial assistance to those in need.

Dramatic Deterioration in Conditions

After more than 15 years of civil war and the collapse of basic public health, education and water services, Somali citizens find themselves in a precarious situation. And the situation is further deteriorating due to a variety of aggravating factors.

The already poor state of the nutrition, health and food security situations is being threatened by prolonged drought, local currency devaluation (100% in one year), and the rise of basic food costs (in 6 months: + 115% for rice, +52% for wheat flour, +32% for sugar). This is threatening the already critical economic and livelihood status of the population. One of the population’s last coping mechanisms to get some cash to buy food or water is to reduce its already limited assets. In the Bakool region, where ACF intervenes, the last harvest was poor. As a consequence the stocks have been exhausted or sold and are now empty until the next expected harvest due sometime in July-August. Meanwhile, the latest nutritional survey carried out by ACF in the area in April of 2008 established very serious rates of malnutrition, with more than 22% of GAM and more than 2% of SAM among children under 5. These numbers seriously surpass critical internationally recognized benchmarks.

To make matters worse, the security situation has drastically deteriorated since early 2007 due to the expansion of the conflict all over South-Central Somalia. Somalia has disintegrated into a patchwork of countless armed groups and factions with various different agendas. Numerous civilian casualties, the displacement of thousands of people, the disruption of their livelihoods, and uncontrolled taxation at checkpoints, are some of the many grave consequences of such severe insecurity.

Threat of Misconceptions: Blurring of Humanitarian Boundaries

While the needs exceed crisis point, humanitarian access is more and more difficult and thousands of Somalis cannot be assisted. In addition to acts of thievery and the tensions resulting from the conflict, security threats (including kidnappings and killings) against humanitarian workers are rising dramatically.

It has always been challenging to work in Somalia’s complex environment and the risk of confusion, or perception of confusion, between economic, political, military or ideological agendas and independent humanitarian actors is high. In the current context characterized by a profusion of various local or international armed groups, it is of the utmost importance to repeat and reaffirm the neutrality of independent humanitarian workers, who work for the welfare of the populations in need, who should not be abandoned.

ACF wishes to continue providing vital assistance in Somalia and wants to insist on its humanitarian status and principles, as stated in its Charter:

  • ACF is a neutral, impartial, independent, non-political, non-religious and non-profit international humanitarian organization.
  • ACF activities are solely based on the humanitarian needs of the population.
  • Every one of Action Against Hunger’s employees signs the ACF Charter and is committed to respecting those humanitarian principles. As such, they should be regarded and respected solely as humanitarian workers.

ACF in Somalia

Since 1992, ACF has been assisting the most vulnerable through its nutritional, health, water & sanitation and food security programs in Mogadishu, Wajid (Bakol region, since 2003) and in Dusa Mareb district (Galgaduud region, since 2007). Over the last few months, ACF has witnessed a dramatic rise in the numbers of severely malnourished children in our therapeutic feeding centers (+50%). In order to mitigate the effects of drought, ACF has scaled up its humanitarian response to include emergency water trucking. ACF implements its projects thanks to the work of 220 Somali employees and 12 international experts, working in close and transparent collaboration with all local communities, beneficiaries and stakeholders.