Bulletin of the EC Somalia Unit Issue No. 4

This issue focuses on humanitarian assistance to southern Somalia, in recognition of the three relief workers murdered recently. Their deaths highlight the burden placed on relief efforts due to the on-going insecurity, and the heavy price being paid by civilians.


The humanitarian crisis in southern Somalia is not new - for over a decade people have lived in constant fear of violence, food shortage, and disease, while humanitarian agencies have struggled in their relief efforts due to insecurity and operational constraints.

What is new is that the cumulative impact of this crisis is creating a downward spiral towards the greater destruction of livelihoods, with diminishing prospects for recovery. There is a pressing need to reflect on the constraints and needs of humanitarian assistance, in order to find a fresh approach to reverse this bitter cycle.

There is little doubt that southern Somalia has been in a state of chronic emergency for many years. The United Nation's Human Development report for 1998 ranked it as among the very lowest countries in the world on UNDP's Human Development Index. The main cause of this emergency is the permanent state of insecurity, caused by clan conflict, daily acts of banditry and increasing criminalisation. With no proven commitment by faction leaders to peace, and with the flow of arms continuing unabated, a lasting political solution remains far off. The price being paid is heavy.

Humanitarian agencies are often forced to curtail their relief operations, and in some cases suspend them altogether because areas are too unsafe to work. For example, agency activity in Gedo region has been suspended since June following the murder of Dr. Bhogal, a veterinarian working for the international NGO, Terra Nuova. The perpetrators continue to roam free.

While threats against international staff, hijacking and killings are not new - already the death toll stands at five this year - a pattern is emerging whereby all agency staff are being targeted. In August and September alone, three humanitarian aid workers were murdered. Dr. Kassim Egal of WHO Kismayu office, Farah Ali Aden of MEMISA Gedo office, and Dr. Ayub Sheikh Yerow of UNICEF's Baidoa office.

These cruel incidents raise critical questions on the ability of local communities to ensure the security of local and international humanitarian relief workers. As constraints on humanitarian operations increase, indicators suggest that the food insecurity is deteriorating in southern Somalia. A recent assessment by the Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) estimates 500,000 people are at risk. In Bay and Bakool alone, 300,000 people are in need of immediate food assistance, with 73,000 acutely vulnerable. The gloomy statistics looks equal if not worse in Gedo.

Beneath the numbers, a more disturbing picture emerges. As summarized in a recent inter-agency assessment on Bay and Bakool: "The cumulative effect of a decade of conflict, compounded by several seasons of below normal crop and livestock production and the degradation of civil and productive infrastructure has led to chronic depletion of resources and capacity to cope. Communities in these areas are now perilously vulnerable to any further shocks."

It is not clear what point of the cycle has been reached - whether people do still have extra resources to survive. However, the poor prospect of rain for the coming Deyr season suggests that there is no immediate opportunity for food relief, without external assistance, until the next main harvest in August 2000.

There are no easy answers or short fix solutions in Somalia. As well as continuing efforts on the political level, with hopes aroused around the recent Djibouti peace initiative, the international community has stepped up its commitment to seeking preventive measures to the humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Randolph Kenta, said: "For years the international community has talked about the need to take up the challenge and to prevent the crisis before it is too late." He has recently appointed a representative to address the issue.

But the theme stressed by all players, is that the only sustainable road to a brighter future lies on the ability of Somali's themselves, in particular civil society, to seek peaceful and sustainable solutions. The commitment of the Somali people to peace and stability remains the most important factor in the process of recovery.


The volatile security situation in southern Somalia places major operational constraints on humanitarian relief agencies. The international NGO, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors without Borders), is one such agency whose capacity to deliver vital health care services in Mogadishu, Kismayu and Middle Shabelle has been severely affected.

In June, MSF-Belgium decided to withdraw its international staff from the hospital in Kismayu, following the battle for the city. For resident surgeon, Marie Noelle Coutisse, it was a bitter blow. "Up until the evacuation I never felt threatened or feared anything," she said. "It was a dream hospital - the contact I had with staff was excellent, the hospital was of brilliant standard and everything was running smoothly."

The hospital - the only one south of Mogadishu - continues to function, but getting in medical supplies has become a huge problem. Nor is it likely that an MSF team will return soon. "Without any guarantee of minimum stability, we can not return," said Ms Coutisse. For MSF-Spain working in Mogadishu and Middle Shabelle, the main problems are lack of human resources and funding, but the underlying cause is the same - insecurity.

One of the main constraints in Mogadishu is getting both local and expatriate staff. "There are few available qualified local medical staff and nurses, as the Somali doctors who have stayed on tend to run their own private clinics," said Mila Font, MSF-Spain's Liaison Officer. The constant threat of evacuation has prevented the running of adequate training programmes, and equally difficult is recruiting international staff willing to live in the hostile environment. It is for example the only place in the world where MSF staff need armed guards.

So why does the agency stay when so many other international NGOs have packed their bags? The answer is simple: "If we weren't there, no-one else would be," said Ms Font, "There is a huge need, particularly in preventative care, which is something people will never pay for." She would like to see the programme continue and even expand, but without the promises of security, for now they must wait and watch.


On 15 October, MSF was awarded the international Nobel Peace Prize for 1999. It honours the work of all national and international MSF relief workers bringing medical assistance in around 80 countries, including 20 conflict zones. "We hope it will allow us to do more," Mila Font of MSF-Spain. "The award is a challenge for us not to forget the populations at large who continue to suffer in conflict places like Somalia."


The collapse of the state, followed by a gradual breakdown of traditional coping mechanisms, is forcing women entrepreneurs to seek support amongst themselves, according to Silvia Ricchieri of the international NGO, COSPE. She has recently returned from the Shabelle Valley, where she examined some of the constraints facing businesswomen.

Ms Ricchieri visited over 200 leading businesswomen in Mogadishu, Merka, Jowhar, Corioley, Afgoi and Belet Huen, as part of a four-month project, funded by the European Commission, which aims to raise the capacity of women trade networks. The women - mainly traders in goods such as gold, food, and petrol - complained that the on-going insecurity is the biggest burden on trade.

Firstly, insecurity has placed obvious day-to-day constraints on business. Banditry, for example, has made it dangerous to travel on the roads and carry money. The war economy has also made it difficult to get loans, with interest rates running at up to 30% a month. For the larger businesses in Mogadishu, which can afford protection, the main constraint is trading abroad. The lack of legal documents and the struggle to get visas, gives them only minimal control over foreign transactions, and they argue that they are at a much greater disadvantage to their male counterparts.

Even the humanitarian relief effort has upset market trading, according to some women. They complained, for example, that food trucks 'dump food' on the market causing a rapid deflation of prices. The arrival of food convoys is equally problematic, as it creates tension in villages, which often results in an escalation of violence.

Beneath these day-to-day constraints, a more fundamental problem emerges - the continuity of conflict, banditry, and corruption has led to a breakdown in the women's social and economic reference points. While the collapse of the state removed many of the vital legal and banking structures, now even traditional coping mechanisms, such as the safety net of clan, village and family networks is being eroded. Admittedly this has benefited some women, who have been able to take advantage of the lifting of former constraints on their status. For the majority however, it has left them increasingly vulnerable.

In the vacuum, many are turning to Islamic groups to give them a degree of order and security, even at the cost of restricting freedoms of expression. There is also an increasing desire for women to seek support and cohesion amongst themselves. Many women NGOs for example, have sprung up to provide a place for women to meet and share experiences. Ms Ricchieri would like to see a similar development among businesswomen, through the establishment of associations or small enterprise networks, where women can develop their own support services and build up a secure trading network.

The response, so far, has been encouraging, but it will be a long and hard process, says Ms Ricchieri, not least because women barely have the time to devote to anything other than daily survival. The need for unity however is vital if the barriers of inequality and insecurity are to be overcome.


Johan Heffinck, the new technical co-ordinator of ECHO's Regional Support Office, examines some of the challenges facing ECHO activities in southern Somalia:

What are your first impressions when looking at ECHO's Somalia programme?

My first impressions - not just of ECHO but the efforts of the whole international community - is that the programme is confronted with huge problems in delivering effective humanitarian assistance. For the last eight years or so the humanitarian community has tried many different methods, but there has always been a feeling that we are going in the wrong direction - that we are not really reaching the population most in need. Now there is a little bit of fatigue - not only donor fatigue but also from implementing partners who are confronted with problems of finding quality staff, working in a volatile environment, and finding ways of engaging with the Somali population.

So how does ECHO deal with such an on-going emergency?

We deliver humanitarian assistance to people in acute need - for example those who have been displaced or are suffering as a result of violent situations. In the case of southern Somalia our programme has two main dimensions. The first is to give support to small foci of stability, in order to kick start programmes that can act as a bridge towards middle-term, structure-orientated ones, which other partners, like the Somalia Unit, will pursue. Another dimension - which I believe we should now upgrade a lot - is the creation of a rapid reaction capacity. By that I mean the formation of cells, consisting of small groups of NGOs with different sector expertise (e.g. health, nutrition, water), which can deliver critical short-term interventions in any emergency situation.

Some critics argue that aid should be linked more closely with finding a political situation, particularly in the Somali context where there is no government. What do you feel about this?

The presence of a national government or the availability of a local administration should not be a prerequisite for ECHO to implement its programmes. According to the European Union's Council regulation of June 1996 (the legal basis on which ECHO operates), the EC's humanitarian aid should not be guided by political consideration. The actual impact of humanitarian relief is another matter. In southern Somalia there is a big question mark on some of our programmes as to whether they make an impact at all, or at worse have a negative one. It has forced us to look deeper into the side effects of our projects. We have been doing a performance review since May, evaluating all our projects in terms of cost efficiency, effectiveness and especially their impact on the population. The results have not all been positive, but we hope that we can now redirect our programme to avoid any potential negative impact.

With financial demands being made by other emergencies, such as Kosovo and East Timor, is ECHO funding for Somalia under threat?

No. If there are needs in Somalia and we can do something sensible about them, then there will be the money available. ECHO budgets are quite flexible, so to some extent, we can adapt different allocations to different countries according to the changing needs. In fact, our Performance Review is being done to guarantee the continuation of the programme - we are convinced that we should remain in Somalia whatever happens. However we do need to guarantee a higher degree of quality performance. Rather than funding, I feel the more critical issues are lack of quality partners, lack of quality expatriate personnel, accessibility, and security.

So how will ECHO get around some of these obstacles, especially access and security, in order to deliver 'quality' assistance?

I feel that there is a need for a Code of Conduct. I know the SACB has one but I don't think it goes far enough. We need a coherent, universally standardized set of rules and regulations that sets out how we - both the international community and the local population - define priorities and relationships. It is not only about defining how the Somali population has to behave but also how we behave towards them. This kind of code worked well in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It may be more difficult in southern Somalia because there is more anarchy but I definitely think we could try and work out something which is better than what we have now.


Women and children united in Jowhar (photo) in protest at the murder of UNICEF's Dr Ayub Sheikh Yerow. He was killed on 16 September after being shot in a bandit attack. Rallies and prayers were held throughout Somalia, including Kismayu, Bardera, Baidoa, Jowhar, Bossaso and Hargeisa, as well as the UN complex in Nairobi, Kenya.

Addressing a rally in Jowhar, UNICEF's Somalia Representative, Dr Gianfranco Rotigliano said that the doctor had lived and worked selflessly to improve the welfare of Somalis, especially the children, yet he had become the victim of a senseless killing. He continued: "It should not be possible that a few violent people are spoiling the lives of all of you. The time is now to send a loud and clear message: nabad baanu rabnaa (we want peace)."

Djibouti Peace Proposal wins International Support

The Djibouti peace proposal for Somalia, outlined by President Guelleh at the Fifty-fourth General Assembly of the United Nations, received strong support from members of the IGAD Partner's Forum (IPF), who met in Rome on 19 and 20 October.

The peace initiative advocates for a national reconciliation conference, comprising representative members of all Somali society, with particular emphasis on involving civil society. Earlier, it was endorsed in principle by the Standing Committee and IPF Liaison group, during meetings in Addis Ababa in September.

Participants at the Rome meeting noted that the peace initiative had received a positive and encouraging reaction inside Somalia. It was felt however, that a major problem still facing all conflict resolution efforts in Somalia was finding legitimate representation. The IPF warned Somali faction leaders that if they did not renounce violence, and respect the role of civil society, then the international community would take strong measures to reduce their ability to disrupt the path towards peace. The next agreed step is to assist in the elaboration of an operational plan to move President Guelleh's peace initiative forward. It will be the main focus for discussion at the IGAD Summit, to be held in late November, in Djibouti.



  • The rehabilitation of bridges and culverts on the Hargeisa to Dila road has begun, following the official signing of the contract on 13 October. Co-funded by the Commission and Danish government, the repairs along the 130 km stretch of road are being done by a local company, East & West Construction Group, under the supervision of Louis Berger S.A. It is the first of five contracts to rehabilitate Somalialand's regional road network, linking the towns of Dila - Hargeisa - Berbera - Burao.
  • A further shipment of 16,000 metric tonnes of EC food aid, destined for Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, was unloaded in Berbera port in October. It follows the success of the first shipment in February when 15,000 Mts. was unloaded in record time. A third one is planned for November, destined for Nazareth, Ethiopia. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Food Programme are also looking at the possibility of using the port.
  • The Commission has ended its funding of the Hargeisa Emergency Appeal Programme (HEAC), following the successful completion of 14 community-based projects in Awdal, Galbeed and Sahil regions. The funds were a short-term measure to alleviate the worst effects, suffered by communities, of the livestock export ban, which has now been lifted. The projects concentrated on labor-intensive activities, such as the rehabilitation of water supplies, buildings, markets and roads.
  • The new United Nation's Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Randolph Kent, announced an improvement in the official UN security classification of Galbeed region, from Phase 4 to Phase 3. The statement was made during his introductory tour of Hargeisa in September.


  • A cholera outbreak continues in Bosasso. A total of 533 cases were recorded between August and October, including 38 deaths of which 31 were children under five. Efforts by international agencies and local authorities to control it are on-going, but preventative activities have been hampered by the refusal of community members to chlorinate wells, due to lack of incentives.
  • In August the Central Bank of Puntland became fully operational in Bosasso, as well as opening branches in Las Anod and Galkayo. Rehabilitation on a bank building in Garowe has also started.
  • A NGO consortium in Puntland has begun an on-going monitoring process of the environment in Bari, Nugal and North Mudug regions, as part of an early warning drought mechanism. The field based NGOs are gathering regular base-line information on key drought indicators, including water (tankering activities, price fluctuations, quality of bore-holes), livestock conditions (pasture, animal density and condition) and food commodities. A seasonal report will be published on the findings.
  • The initiative comes in response to the drought warning issued early in the year, when efforts were thwarted by the absence of data on which to assess the situation.

( Contact: UNA Nairobi Office: Tel: 254 2 440660, Fax: 442341
Bosasso Office: Tel: 252 523 4770 Fax: 4580)

Diplomatic Mission raises profile of Somalia crisis

The United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Sergio Vieira de Mello, went on an official one-day visit of Baidoa and Merka in October. He was accompanied by Mr J. Duarte de Carvalho, Chairman of the SACB Executive Committee and Counsellor of the European Commission.

Mr de Mello said his visit, the first of such a senior UN official since 1993, was requested specifically by UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan and was symbolic of a new commitment by the UN to help Somalis in their search for peace.

Civil groups rally for peace

Mogadishu was the scene of one of the biggest peace rallies in recent years, with over 10,000 people crowding into Benadir Stadium to demonstrate their will and commitment for peace and national reconciliation. Many other thousands of people gathered in major towns and cities to express their will for peace. The rally, organised in October by civil society groups, was also seen as an endorsement by the Somali people to the peace proposal put forward by the President of Djibouti.

Fighting Polio

National Immunization Days for Polio Eradication were held from 24 to 26 October in Somaliland, Puntland, Hiran, Bay and Bakool region. This staged approach attempted to ensure a good quality campaign, with immunization targeted at children under five.

It was organized by the Polio NID Secretariat, which includes UNICEF and WHO, with technical support from the SACB Health Coordinator. Areas not reached due to lack of access are to be targeted at a later stage, when security is assured.

Outlook for Rains is Poor

Climate scientists say there is a 50% probability that southern Somalia will experience below normal rains in the coming Deyr season, which runs from September through to December 1999. The forecast for the northern region is brighter, with a 40% chance that rain will be near-normal. The predictions were made at the Fourth Climate Outlook Forum for the Eastern Africa Sub-Region, held in Mombasa, Kenya on 8-10 September.

( Contact: FSAU, Tel: (254 2) 622929/47; Fax: 622698)


Murders condemned by SACB:

The SACB condemned in the strongest possible terms the ruthless killing of Mr. Farah Ali Aden of MEMISA and Dr. Ayub Sheikh Yerow of UNICEF Baidoa. In a press statement regarding Mr. Aden's murder it said: "This tragic incident is a cruel reminder of the extremely volatile environment in southern Somalia. Every day humantarian aid workers are risking their lives to help the people of Somalia". In coping with these tragedies, the SACB stressed the need to apply its security guidelines, which were endorsed by all its members in May 1999.

Prevention is vital to Food Security:

The SACB , comprising donors, UN Agencies and NGOs, called for urgent preventive measures to address the worsening food security crisis in Bay, Bakool and Gedo region, according to a statement issued on 28 September. "A co-ordinated approach by the international community is required to prevent the situation worsening and spreading to other areas of the country" said the Chairman of the Executive Committee, J. Duarte de Carvalho.

Contact: SACB Secretariat; Tel: 254-2-441225; Fax: 254-2-448123; E-mail:

EC Project News from the South:


In August, the Commission approved a further 8,000 metric tons of food to the World Food Programme (WFP), on top of 10,000 tons already allocated. It also pledged 4,000 metric tons of food aid to CARE. The pledges come in direct response to the emergency appeals issued by the Somalia Aid Co-ordination Body in November 1998 and July 1999.


A two-year primary education programme was launched in Merka in August, to rehabilitate five primary schools and develop a school administration system. It is being funded by the Italian government under the Commission's co-finance agreement, and implemented by the international NGO, COSV.

EC Project News from the North:


The Commission has approved a six month consultancy to assist the Puntland administration to develop a strategic inter-sectoral development plan. It is expected to improve the administration's capacity to plan and deliver effective social services. Discussions are now underway with local and international partners, in preparation for a workshop in November.


The Commission approved funding for the construction of 168 low cost houses for displaced persons in North Mudug region. Implementing agency, Diakonia Sweden, started the project in September.

Brussels News

New Head of Commission's Horn of Africa Unit visits Nairobi

In September, Sigurd Illing, the European Commission's recently appointed Head of Unit for the Horn of Africa, visited the Commission's Delegation in Kenya, including the Somalia Unit. Mr Illing is not new to Somalia, having been the EC's Special Envoy from 1993-1997. During his two-day visit, he congratulated the Somalia Unit on its achievements over the last two years, especially given the difficult circumstances it has had to face, not only within Somalia but as a result of on-going restructuring in Brussels. He also met with Member States, other donors and international NGOs.

New Commissioner for Development is appointed

Poul Nielson, the former Danish minister for development cooperation, has been appointed the new Commissioner for development and humanitarian aid of the European Union. In his recent hearing with the European Parliament he recalled that development aid is a 'moral obligation in the context of globalization."

The Commission says good-bye to numerals!

As part of the European Commission's restructuring in Brussels, the former "DGVIII" has been replaced by the "Directorate General for Development" (acronym DG DEV).

Late news

Mr Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Silanyo), Minister of National Planning for the north west of Somalia, Somaliland, made an appeal to the international community for more assistance to accelerate reconstruction and growth in the region.
He was addressing the Somalia Aid Co-ordination Body (SACB) Consultative meeting in Nairobi on 28 October, during a recent visit. He later met with the Chairs of the Executive, Consultative and Sectoral Committee's of the SACB.

To post your news and views write to:
The European Commission Somalia Unit
Union Insurance House; Ragati Road;
P.O. Box 30475, Nairobi, Kenya;
Tel: 254-2-713250/1; Fax: 254-2-710997; E-mail:

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