ATLANTA - December 21 - Three international humanitarian agencies, providing relief and long-term development in south central Somalia to approximately 1.5 million people, are appealing to all actors in Somalia to cease hostilities and resume peace talks as quickly as possible. Furthermore, the agencies urge all parties to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access to those who are suffering from the effects of fighting, recent flooding and months of prolonged drought.
CARE, Save the Children UK and World Vision International are among the largest humanitarian agencies working in south and central Somalia, addressing the priority needs of flood-affected populations in the regions of Hiran, Lower Shebelle, Gedo and Lower and Middle Juba. Recent flooding after months of drought, compounded by the threat of war, is likely to displace over 1 million vulnerable people and create a new surge of refugees in neighboring countries.
"Close to 1 million people have been seriously affected by a series of multiple natural disasters," says Paul Daniels, assistant country director for CARE in Somalia. "Thousands have lost their homes, cattle and crops. Heavy rains have broken river banks, washed away access roads and swallowed up anything in sight."
This scenario could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa region, say the three aid agencies. In recent months, more than 35,000 Somali refugees have arrived in Kenya, putting additional pressure on the already crowded Dadaab refugee camps.
The rains have rendered many areas of Somalia inaccessible, requiring air drops and boat delivery to get humanitarian aid to people who stayed in their villages. The bad conditions of the roads and the rising tensions are greatly slowing down the delivery of food. Recently, a U.N. convoy carrying humanitarian items from Mogadishu to Wajiid took 29 days to travel a 90km stretch of road, typically a 24-hour trip.
Graham Davison, World Vision Somalia's operations director, adds: "The communities we work with, especially in Middle Juba, are already vulnerable. Most of them are recovering from a food crisis that has been compounded by the floods. World Vision is reaching about 90,000 flood victims in Middle Juba. We request safe and secure access to enable us to carry out our humanitarian work."
A resumption of peace talks between the Transitional Federal Government and the Council of Somali Islamic Courts must be vigorously pursued in order to achieve lasting peace for the people of Somalia and their children.
Though the three aid agencies have scaled up their relief efforts to respond to the recent floods, the organizations have expressed concern about the safety of their teams on the ground since they are operating in a high risk environment.