Somalia: UN voices grave concern after more aid workers are killed

Somalia has been hard hit by civil unrest, especially around the capital city of Mogadishu

15 July 2008 – The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia today expressed grave concern at the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country after two Somali aid workers were killed on Friday, while the UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that one of its transport agents was shot dead on Sunday.

“It is intolerable and incomprehensible that humanitarian workers striving to save lives and alleviate human suffering in one of the most difficult environments in the world are being targeted and killed,” Mark Bowden said in a statement.

The two aid workers who died on Friday worked for Somali non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the capital Mogadishu.

“It is also very worrying that the general level of violence in large parts of Somalia has been constantly rising this year and has reached unacceptable levels of civilian casualties,” Mr. Bowden said.

In Sunday’s incident, militiamen opened fire in the southern town of Buale, killing the WFP transport agent in a local dispute. WFP says that payments are demanded by militiamen for trucks carrying humanitarian assistance to pass the hundreds of checkpoints in South and Central Somalia.

So far this year, a total of four WFP-contracted drivers have been killed in Somalia.

“We condemn these shootings, and are very concerned that growing insecurity threatens to sabotage the humanitarian response in Somalia,” WFP Country Director Peter Goossens said, adding that violence was rising when more than two million people needed assistance because of drought and high food prices.

WFP said today that a plague of kidnappings and attacks on aid workers and members of civil society had broken out in recent weeks. Mr. Goossens warned that all sides to the conflict had to recognize that they would be responsible for the further suffering of innocent people should aid deliveries become impossible.

The UN agency said it needed to double the amount of food assistance in Somalia over the rest of the year to feed an average of 2.4 million people per month. WFP says that delivery of food aid by sea is critical and has appealed for naval escorts to ships from piracy.

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