Update No. 98/03 on ICRC activities in Somalia

Having successfully completed its activities for the victims of the worst flooding to hit Somalia for decades, the ICRC was subject to a serious security incident. Since then, it has been obliged to modify its activities. Indeed, given the severe nature of the incident which took place on 15 April, the ICRC was forced to take the regrettable step of withdrawing all expatriate staff from the country. An in-depth analysis of the circumstances surrounding the incident is underway and no definitive decisions as to the future of operations there will be made until all details pertaining to the kidnapping have been collated and thoroughly examined. In the meantime, selected activities will be maintained through local counterparts.
Current position

The number of expatriate staff is being gradually reduced and the team of five expatriates, currently based in Nairobi, will be reduced to four by the end of June. Links to the field will be mainly maintained via ICRC field officers and the SRCS. Over the next few months, the ICRC's mid to long-term involvement in the country will be reconsidered during which time, Somalia will remain off-limits to expatriate staff and ICRC planes.

No new programmes will be launched but those activities already underway which are not dependent on continuous supervision or transport of raw materials will continue to be managed at a distance. Continued support will be provided to the SRCS and emergency assistance will be provided to the war-wounded in hospitals or health structures supported by the National Society wherever possible and on the basis of their assessments.

Flood relief distributions were fortunately completed during the first two weeks of April. Some 17,300 particularly vulnerable families in the Bay and Bakool regions received nearly 222 mt seeds as part of the Gu season programme. As a seed protection measure, 50% of the families also received a half ration of food.

Nearly 10,000 families living along the river in Middle Shabelle received vegetable seeds and fishing equipment.

Most of the sand bags for the flood protection programme have been positioned.

Medical and water and sanitation activities

Medical projects as outlined in the 1998 objectives will continue to run but at a reduced level, focusing on war-wounded and basic curative services. K6, Medina, Baidoa and Galkayo hospitals and health structures in the Mudug and Lower Juba regions, amongst others, will continue to benefit from medical items supplied by the ICRC and distributed by SRCS and ICRC staff.

Well reconstruction and hand-pump installations implemented as part of the post-flood programme were due to be completed by the end of May but have had to be terminated prematurely since they are impossible to manage at a distance. Many other water and sanitation programmes (borehole construction/rehabilitation, well construction and generator repairs) as featured in this year's Emergency Appeals document have been similarly affected. Notable exceptions are reconstruction work on five berkads in Galgadud, construction and/or rehabilitation on seven boreholes in Galgadud, Mudug, Nugaal, Hiran, Middle Shabelle and Mogadishu and a hand-pump installation programme in Mudug. This work is being carried out under the supervision of local staff.

In cooperation with the National Society, the following ICRC-supported activities are ongoing...

Keysaney hospital, run by the SRCS, will continue to treat the war-wounded. The hospital's running costs (including salaries, food (for staff and patients) and generators) will be met by the ICRC, enabling the hospital to provide emergency surgical care to those injured during the conflict or violence and surgery-related outpatient services. Such support will also enable the laboratory and blood bank to function. Future objectives will be determined through discussions with the SRCS for implementation from the end of June this year.

ICRC/SRCS primary health care projects (such as in Hiran, Galgadud and Lower Juba) will continue to receive support, though activities will be reduced to curative services only.

Promoting the message of international humanitarian law... It is essential that dissemination programmes, based on Somalia's nomadic tradition and oral culture, continue through local counterparts. The four campaigns that have been developed within the concept are: dealing with violations of humanitarian law and lack of respect of humanitarian values, promoting a better understanding of the ICRC and the SRCS and security. A national programme of short plays aims at addressing several issues such as women and war, roadblocks, lack of free movement, aid and aid dependency.

Tracing... The SRCS will continue to provide valuable links between families split by the conflict via its Red Cross message network. This function, financed by the ICRC, will however slow down due to reduced mobility and the concomitant logistical and communication constraints.