Poor Somalis ‘still living on a knife-edge’

Somali refugees gather firewood for cooking, more than a year after the famine. Many Somalis may be at risk to return to crisis if support for them stops. Photo by: J. Ose / UNHCR

After banning 17 organizations — including the World Food Program and five other U.N. agencies, and Save the Children — militant group al-Shabab has added another aid group to its blacklist: Islamic Relief.

In a tweet posted Monday (Oct. 8), al-Shabab said it is revoking Muslim aid group Islamic Relief’s permit to work in areas under its control, citing failure to comply with the group’s Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies’ operational guidelines and for working covertly with banned organizations such as WFP.

Iftikhar Shaheen, Islamic Relief’s regional director, denied al-Shabab’s allegations and toldThe Associated Press that the agency has yet to receive “official” notification of the ban.

The announcement was made on the same day Oxfam released the results of its survey of poor households in Somalia. While the general situation in the capital city Mogadishu has improved over the past year, areas in the southern regions, particularly in Gedo, Lower Juba and Bakoo, have “alarming malnutrition figures.”

The survey also notes this year’s poor rainfall has not only affected the supply of and access to water, but also disrupted the region’s harvest, resulting in restricted access to food and lower household incomes. The majority of respondents are either skipping meals or eating less per meal, concerned that “they will not have enough to eat in the next four months.”

Food and water shortages have already aggravated the health situation in the country, with pregnant women, the elderly and children continuing to be the most susceptible to malnutrition and diseases.

“Thankfully it is unlikely Somalia will fall back into famine in the near future, but it is clear many of Somalia’s poorest people are still living on a knife-edge,” Senait Gebregziabher, Oxfam’s Country Director for Somalia, said in a press release.

Oxfam further warns in a media briefing that with many Somalis still very much reliant on aid from local and international agencies, “any reduction in aid would hit the poorest people hardest.”

The director encouraged consistent support for the country, noting that resilience programs such as better water management, road rehabilitation and agricultural planning are “vital” in helping the region cope with the food and water crises.

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About the author

  • Adrienne Valdez

    Adrienne Valdez is a former staff writer for Devex, covering breaking international development news. Before joining Devex, Adrienne worked as a news correspondent for a public-sector modernization publication.

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