The fragile progress made in alleviating the situation in famine-hit Somalia is under threat as militant groups in the country move to block aid agencies from continuing their work in some of the hardest-hit regions, aid agencies have warned.
Humanitarian aid efforts in Somalia hit a major slump Nov. 29 when the al-Shabab militant group banned 16 aid groups, including some U.N. agencies, from operating in southern Somalia areas under its control.
Aid workers, high-level aid officials and Somalis alike have expressed outrage and sadness over the ban, whose imposition they say not only further complicates aid efforts in the country but also heightens the risks faced by thousands of Somalis in need of aid.
“We are extremely concerned as any disruption to our assistance is like unplugging life support for many children, especially for the 160,000 severely malnourished children in south-central Somalia,” UNICEF’s Jaya Murthy said.
UNICEF was among the 16 aid organizations that al-Shabab banned.
“What is at stake here, are the lives of Somali women and children who bear the brunt of prolonged conflict and recurrent harsh climatic conditions,” European aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said. “Once again, it is the most vulnerable that will suffer. We urge Al-Shabaab to immediately reverse the ban and respect International Humanitarian Law. We will continue to strive to help and try to find other ways to reach the most vulnerable people.”
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