Somalia

Humanitarian situation in Somalia: Monthly analysis, May 2007

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HIGHLIGHTS

While there has been no major conflict in Mogadishu during May and early June 2007, tensions in the city persisted, with incidents involving roadside bombs and other explosive devices on the increase. TFG supporters were targeted, as well as Ugandan and Ethiopian convoys. Two failed attempts were made on the life of the TFG Prime Minister during the first week in June, after which authorities instigated a major security crackdown, with house-to-house weapon searches, the arrest of hundreds of individuals, and reported widespread harassment and intimidation of residents.

In spite of the above, approximately 112,000 of almost 400,000 people who were displaced from the capital between February and April 2007 are estimated to have returned. Additional returns continue to be inhibited by factors such as fear of renewed violence, the destruction of some public buildings and tension over the planned use of other buildings formerly occupied by IDPs. Meanwhile, following the unrest and recent security crackdown, reports have indicated some renewed movement out of the city, though numbers are unconfirmed.

Response to conflict-displaced IDPs continued in May. As of the end of the month, partners had delivered non-food items for over 360,000 IDPs and food for over 336,000 IDPs in the different areas of displacement. Health and water/sanitation response continued through support for hospitals, provision of medicines, and chlorination activities. As people started to return to Mogadishu, and in spite of security developments in the city, humanitarian partners were also able to deliver some assistance to the returnees; however, violence and insecurity limit the response.

On 29-30 May, a UN inter-agency mission traveled to Mogadishu to discuss the next steps in the delivery of aid. While the first phase of the IDP response prioritised assistance to the most vulnerable, given that returns to Mogadishu have begun, the focus will now shift to provision of basic services for IDPs and the community as a whole. The mission underlined the impartial nature of all humanitarian action and stressed that any discussion of resettlement plans for IDPs or longer-term support for durable solutions for IDPs will only take place once the National Reconciliation process has defined the way forward. The mission noted a strong mistrust amongst and between authorities, civil society and NGOs, while Mogadishu's residents had clearly reached a state of desperation, with many having suffered the destruction of sources of livelihood. In such an environment, all constituencies must work together to address humanitarian needs. In order to enhance coordination and communication, a collaborative framework will be discussed to bolster humanitarian response and define the respective roles of the various constituencies.

Meanwhile, humanitarian access into and throughout South/Central is showing a worrying trend, with increasing restrictions on road, air and sea movement. Insecurity, checkpoints and rising passage fees along several main roads resulted in delivery delays, while heavy rains and localised flooding rendered some roads impassable. Kismayo port closed twice during May due to revenue issues, while flights to Buale (Middle Juba) and Galkayo (Mudug) were halted due to security (Buale has since reopened). Hijackings and attempted hijackings of vessels off the Somali coast increased; on 19 May a WFP-chartered vessel was attacked. Although WFP has not suspended sea transport of aid, the agency is finding it difficult to contract vessels to ship food to Somalia.

According to FAO/FSAU, the overall 2007 Gu performance has so far been poor and may result in significantly reduced crop production, with corresponding implications for food security. Of particular concern are Hiran and the southern regions. The poor Gu performance, along with the impact of displacement from Mogadishu is expected to have negatively affected agropastoral and agricultural communities in these areas. A best case scenario anticipates below normal rainfed production, while a worst case scenario would see rainfed crop failure, especially in Hiran and the Shabelles.

Although Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD)/cholera remains a health concern in South/Central Somalia, the outbreak has been largely contained in areas to which partners have access. Since 1 January 2007, 36,292 cases of AWD have been reported, including 1,102 related deaths. More worryingly, recent nutrition assessments confirm that high rates of acute malnutrition that have persisted for years throughout South/Central Somalia are continuing. So far in 2007, 16 of 17 assessments have shown rates above the emergency threshold of 15%.

ACCESS and SECURITY

Despite the absence of widespread fighting in Mogadishu in May and early June 2007, heightened tensions persisted, with an increase in incidents and attacks involving hand grenades, explosive devices and roadside bombs. Supporters of the TFG continued to be targeted and assassinations increased; two failed attempts were made on the life of the TFG Prime Minister. Ugandan and Ethiopian troop convoys came under attack and unexploded ordnance planted during the conflict has resulted in casualties and deaths. On 6 June, a major security crackdown by the authorities saw house-to-house weapon searches followed by hundreds of arrests - including that of of Abdi Imaan, Chairman of the Hawiye elders (later released). Business and transport reportedly came to a complete standstill, while three major media houses accused of supporting anti-TFG factions were shut down for several days.

Since fighting stopped at the end of April, thousands of people who fled the city between February and April 2007 returned to Mogadishu. Humanitarian partners were able to deliver some assistance to the returnees. This, however, was relatively limited with the majority of needs still unmet. Ongoing activities continue to the extent possible through national staff, yet the insecurity in the city creates interruptions and obstructs the scaling up of the response.

Mobility of aid workers in areas surrounding the capital was negatively affected, with general insecurity reported along main roads to Merka, K50, Balad, Jowhar, Baidoa, and Beletweyne. Tensions in Lower Shabelle due to fighting between the former regional administration and the newly appointed administration resulted in an unconfirmed number of deaths and contributed to insecurity on roads in the region. In various parts of South/Central, checkpoints and passage fees resulted in delivery delays and additional transport costs. Charges per truck at Baidoa have reportedly increased from $125 to $520.

Security in the Jubas deteriorated. In the Kismayo area, clan fighting caused an unconfirmed number of deaths. Kismayo's seaport closed twice in May over revenue demands; the second time reopening on 31 May following clan mediation. Throughout the month, roadblocks on the main road to Kismayo were rife; up to 40 roadblocks were reported on the 40km stretch between Arare and Kismayo. Recently, a convoy of some 35 trucks was delayed on the road between Kismayo and Jilib for five days. UNCAS flights to Buale (Middle Juba) were halted on 23 May due to security issues. The airstrip was reopened on 29 May but tensions on the ground persist. Aside from insecurity, various unresolved procedural issues regarding the importation of humanitarian cargo into Somalia are complicating delivery of assistance. In a recent incident, WFP-contracted trucks were delayed for a day at Mogadishu port while awaiting permission from the authorities to continue to Mogadishu warehouses for off-loading of food. With regard to the border situation, negotiations are ongoing concerning authorization to move humanitarian cargo overland from Kenya to Somalia.

Heavy localised Gu rains also affected transport of cargo, as main roads became impassable, particularly in the Jubas and parts of Gedo. WFP food distributions were delayed due to impassable roads in Middle Juba, while in Jowhar (Middle Shabelle) the airstrip was shut on 14 May for several days due to localized rains. In late May, heavy rains over coastal areas in Kenya obstructed overland transport to the Somali border, with delays of up to three days along some stretches.

Incidents of hijacking and attempted hijacking of commercial vessels along the Somali coast increased in May. A WFP-chartered vessel was attacked on 19 May after unloading 4,000 metric tons (MT) of food in Merka. Although the agency has food supplies and has not suspended sea transport of aid (the fastest and most efficient way of moving large amounts of food), it is finding it difficult to contract vessels to ship food to Somalia. Should incidents of piracy continue or worsen, partners may have to find alternative supply routes into the country for both food and non-food assistance.

Given the above, the recent allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for Air Support Services in Somalia is a welcome development. The CERF funds will be used to subsidize humanitarian cargo and passenger flights into South/Central Somalia to support the provision of assistance to IDPs and the post-drought, - flood and - conflict responses. Included in the project is the rehabilitation of Wajid airstrip, now underway and expected to be completed by the end of July 2007. While works are ongoing, only caravans will be able to land at the airstrip.

In Puntland, several security incidents followed the lowering of the UN security phase in the zone. A reported US airstrike over Bargal on 1 June resulted in an unconfirmed number of deaths and heightened tension in neighbouring areas. Aid organizations operated cautiously in the area. Meanwhile, two kidnapped staff members working for an international NGO were released in mid-May.

Further to the May directive by the TFG that anyone entering Somalia must obtain a visa prior to arrival, humanitarian partners are encountering problems when visiting locations in parts of northwest Somalia where local authorities are not recognising the TFG-issued visa. Additionally, in southern Somalia, despite holding a visa, aid workers in some areas are being charged arrival, transit and departure fees. The matter has been discussed with the TFG; however, despite assurances from the authorities, discrepancies remain between the official policy and its implementation on the ground.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.