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Washington D.C. -- Refugees International (RI) is calling on the United States to press for the protection of displaced families and humanitarian workers in the Horn of Africa, and to ease restrictions on humanitarian assistance. These are two of the recommendations made in Horn of Africa: Not the Time to Look Away, a new RI report released today. The report also urges the United Nations to address the security concerns of displaced women and children, and to prevent the spread of infectious disease.
"More than six months have passed since Somalia’s famine was first declared, but this crisis is far from over," said RI President Michel Gabaudan, who recently visited IDP and refugee camps in Somalia and neighboring countries. "In some areas, the drought has eased. But continuing insecurity in the camps threatens families and prevents aid workers from delivering vital supplies. This is a difficult situation, but if we improve policing and protection in the camps we can prevent further loss of life."
During a recent visit to the Horn, RI experts found that the UN and other aid providers are successfully providing basic assistance – food, water, and shelter – to thousands of Somalis streaming into the region’s refugee camps. But the lack of security and protection remains a severe, and largely unaddressed, problem. In Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, for example, police presence is weak despite repeated militant attacks. Dedicated protection services for women and children – who face rape, trafficking, and abuse – are almost entirely absent, with just one child protection specialist serving the camp’s half a million residents. To tackle these problems, RI is pressing the U.S. to work with Kenya and Ethiopia to establish security in the camps. It is also urging the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to dedicate more staff and resources to protection.
While in the region, RI also learned of the extreme access challenges faced by humanitarian organizations. Much of south and central Somalia is controlled by Al Shabab, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that creates severe obstacles to aid delivery. In November, Al Shabab announced the expulsion from its terrority of more than 16 aid organizations. But the challenges of aid delivery are exacerbated by U.S. aid restrictions designed to isolate Al Shabab. These restrictions are creating additional obstacles to scaling up food distribution within Al Shabab controlled areas.
"A quarter-million people are still at risk of imminent starvation in Somalia," Mr. Gabaudan said. "The U.S. must ensure that vital aid continues to flow, and issuing a general license for aid delivery in these regions is a responsible way to do that."
Refugees International is a Washington DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. For more information, please go to www.refugeesinternational.org.
Dara McLeod +1 240 486 3011, [email protected]