Monday's announcement from the World Food Programme (WFP) of a suspension of its humanitarian operations in southern Somalia for security reasons, has pushed the troubled Horn of Africa even closer to the brink of humanitarian disaster.
Somalia is suffering through one of the world's most neglected and long-running humanitarian crises. The country has been without an effective government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. Since then, the country has experienced chronic lawlessness, extreme violence, clan warfare, and an almost total breakdown of its social, economic and political structures.
Somalia's internal civil strife has been exacerbated by the country's increasing geo-political importance in the global 'war on terror', and in the its own region. The humanitarian situation is catastrophic, while the level of insecurity and the unpredictable nature of the conflict make it one the most dangerous places for aid agencies to operate in the world.
The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 16,000 civilians and displaced 870,000 over the past 2 years alone, forcing over 1.2 million people from their homes since 1991, and left 3.76 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
Speaking from Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, Trócaire's Somalia Country Director Rosemary Heenan had this to say: "the humanitarian situation in Somalia is deteriorating rapidly. Peoples' lives and livelihoods have been decimated by almost 20 years of civil conflict, displacement, drought and flooding. Their coping capacity has been stretched to its limit. We are concerned that the withdrawal of food aid could tip the situation over the edge and result in a major disaster
In spite of serious security constraints that further worsen and already difficult operating environment, Trócaire continues to operate in the Gedo region of southern Somalia. Over the last 12 months Trócaire has spent €1.9 million providing humanitarian assistance, basic healthcare, and primary education to over 200,000 people. Without the generous and continued support of the Irish public, this work would not have been possible.