MSF: Somalia’s humanitarian needs should come first

Humanitarian workers with Médecins Sans Frontières examine a child at a camp for internally displaced persons in Somalia. Photo by: Universidad Internacional de Andalucia / CC BY-NC

Recent million-dollar pledges to the fragile Somali government may be misguided, a prominent aid group is suggesting. What good are internationally funded institution-building campaigns when citizens are in desperate need of food, shelter and medical attention?

In a report based on a survey of more than 800 Somalis, Médecins Sans Frontières urges the Somali government and the international community not to forget the everyday horrors of conflict, urging them to prioritize the most urgent humanitarian needs.

“As development, state-building and security plans are drawn up for Somalia’s newly elected government, MSF calls for the prioritization of emergency life-saving assistance to the Somali population,” MSF says in the report.

“What emerges from the 820 testimonies gathered is a mix of fear, violence including sexual assault, people uprooted, food shortages and a lack of access to the basic means of survival and adequate health care,” MSF noted.

Days ago, the United Kingdom pledged £3 million ($4.6 million) to build Somalia’s parliament and provide food aid. The U.K. and Somali governments are scheduled to co-host a donors’ conference on May 7 in London.

For this year, the European Union plans to give €38 million ($51 million) to fuel Somalia’s economic engine. Over the last five years, the EU provided about €600 million in aid to beef up Somalia’s defense, diplomacy and development.

The United States has recently recognized the Somali government as legitimate, paving way for a new relationship with the U.S. Agency for International Development and other donor agencies.

Amid all this renewed interest in Somalia, MSF is adamant that humanitarian assistance not take a back seat.

“As the Somalia government and its donors look toward a new era, humanitarian assistance – including food, water, shelter and health care – dissociated from political objectives and processes should remain a priority,” MSF said.

The country has seen its fair share of crises over the years, and many of them are ongoing – including piracy which is disrupting ocean trade, security threats in southern provinces controlled by the Islamist rebel group al-Shabaab, and the plight by breakaway provinces such as Somaliland.

The 2013 U.N. consolidated appeal for Somalia totals $1.3 billion.

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    John Alliage Morales

    As a staff writer, John Alliage Morales covers the Americas, focusing on the world's top donor hub, Washington, and its aid community - from Capitol Hill to Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom to the downtown headquarters of USAID, the World Bank and Millennium Challenge Corp. Prior to joining Devex, Alliage worked for a variety of news outlets including GMA, the Philippine TV network, where he conducted interviews, analyzed data and produced in-depth stories on development and other topics.