Lifting of aid restrictions vital ahead of impending drought, UN envoy stresses

Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Somalia

5 January 2011 – The top United Nations envoy for Somalia today urged that restrictions on aid delivery, partly owing to a rejection of Western assistance by Islamic militants, be lifted so that those who need help amid an impending drought can receive it.

The Horn of Africa nation is already facing a dire humanitarian crisis in which 3.2 million people, more than 40 per cent of the population, is in need of aid.

This situation is likely to be compounded by the impending drought, which is already having a severe impact on the lives of people and livestock, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In an update issued last week, OCHA noted that the harsh dry season continues to affect many parts of Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland.

Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, who just visited the capital, Mogadishu, yesterday, said the drought is just beginning but it is going to increase, and that people in some of the areas controlled by Al-Shabaab Islamic militants are demanding that international assistance be allowed to reach them.

“The only answer to hunger is to get food,” he stated in an interview with UN Radio, adding that food is available but it is being denied to the population by the various restrictions.

While some of the restrictions stem from insecurity, there also seems to be an “ideological rejection” of assistance from Western countries by Al-Shabaab.

“We hope there will be a relaxation of this restriction to avert what is an impending crisis and a catastrophe of really serious proportions,” said Mr. Mahiga.

Somalia – which has not had a functioning central government since 1991 – has been torn apart by decades of conflict and factional strife, more recently with Al-Shabaab.

While in Mogadishu, Mr. Mahiga met with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as well as Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, with whom he discussed the road map prepared by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Under the Transitional Federal Charter, the interim authority’s mandate is set to expire this August. Several tasks remain to be completed such as continuing initiatives on reconciliation, building civilian and security institutions and the completion of the constitution-making process.


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