Posted by: africanpressorganization | 21 October 2009

International Community fails Somali displaced, UN Representative says




International Community fails Somali displaced, UN Representative says



NAIROBI, Kenya, October 21, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — International Community fails Somali displaced, UN Representative says: “The international community is failing the 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia at a time when the humanitarian crisis is deepening,” Walter Kaelin, the Representative of the UN Secretary General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, said at the end of his mission to Somalia.  

Many of the IDPs interviewed during the mission had fled the climate of violence and impunity in Central and South Somalia, including Mogadishu.  “I am shocked by the degree of violence facing the civilian population in Central and South Somalia. Serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, in particular indiscriminate attacks and shelling of areas populated or frequented by civilians, are being perpetrated by all parties to the conflict with total impunity,” the Representative said.  “Such acts are a major cause of displacement and may amount to war crimes and other crimes under international law.” He also noted the recent increase of persons fleeing the risk of targeted killings, forced recruitment by militias or because they received death threats. IDPs told him that such acts are particularly rampant in areas controlled by those acting under the umbrella of anti-government groups. Many women and girls have fled after being raped. He urges all parties to the conflict – whether state actors, anti-government groups or militias – to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. International troops should take all measures to ensure that their operations do not affect the civilian population.

Those fleeing, whether from general insecurity or drought are forced to seek refuge in makeshift camps that are often inaccessible to humanitarian agencies for security reasons or because access is denied by those controlling the area. “The lack of humanitarian access to those most in need, dangers for humanitarian workers, such as abductions, as well as a sharp decline in donor contributions exacerbate this long-standing humanitarian crisis and risk bringing it to a hitherto unknown level,” the Representative said. He noted the risk of aid being diverted, but called on donors not to reduce humanitarian aid: “This would not only mean punishing the most vulnerable among already destitute communities but also playing into the hands of radical elements who could easily exploit the situation.” He insisted that all actors must grant humanitarian access, ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and not impede the already limited delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid.

All Somalis have the right to seek safety away from their own communities, including in Puntland and Somaliland. They also have the right to seek asylum in another country. The displaced retain all their rights and freedoms. “They must not be sent back to areas they have fled and where their lives and safety would be at risk,” the Representative said.

Those who are able to move to safer areas remain highly vulnerable, particularly if they lost the protection of their clan, and are exposed to heightened risks of suffering human rights violations. These include forced evictions, child labour and sexual and gender-based violence. In many settlements, most of the IDPs are women who are on their own or with their children, Kaelin noted: “The levels of rape and even gang rapes of displaced girls and women, affected communities told me about, are unacceptably high. I am also concerned about the lack of appropriate responses by local authorities and the international community to this problem,” Mr. Kaelin said, referring to the inadequate provision of legal counselling and access to justice, lack of medical and psychosocial care and rehabilitation support for victims. He also noted the lack of specific support to persons with disabilities and traumas.

“I am also deeply concerned about the unacceptable living conditions in some of the IDP settlements I have visited, including lack of proper shelter, food and drinking water, severe malnutrition of children, very poor sanitation , lack of education and health facilities and severe overcrowding,” the Representative said. “Torrential ‘El Niño’ rains are expected to further aggravate an already dramatic situation,” Kaelin added, calling on donors to be prepared.

Though he was not able to visit South and Central Somalia, he received testimonies regarding violence and the appalling living conditions in the Afgooye corridor, an area close to Mogadishu with the highest density of IDPs worldwide.  

“Existing humanitarian aid is pitifully insufficient compared to the needs of the displaced who often face severe protection risks and marginalisation,” Kaelin said.  “Vulnerabilities are heightened by the fact that many IDPs have been displaced more than once,” he added.  

The Representative recognized that the high number of internally displaced persons imposes a burden on host communities and puts enormous strain on the limited existing basic services and resources. He acknowledged existing support being provided by authorities and host communities in Somaliland and Puntland and urged the authorities and humanitarian and development organizations to strengthen efforts to ensure adequate protection and assistance for all internally displaced persons regardless of where they come from.  “All must work together to strengthen reception capacities for new arrivals as much as possible and to enhance and expand basic services for all the communities affected by displacement – both the IDPs and the host communities – in order to avoid and mitigate inter-communal and inter-clan tensions and violence.”

The Representative especially noted the need for a stronger engagement of the international community in Somalia, saying it is essential to find ways to improve humanitarian access and the security of humanitarian workers.

To the extent possible, humanitarian agencies must shift their operations from Nairobi to Puntland, Somaliland and other areas from where the affected regions can be serviced, he said  They must be given the staff and resources necessary to effectively work in such a difficult and dangerous environment, and should receive respective support by donors.

Furthermore, robust investment is needed in education and livelihoods. In this regard, humanitarian and development actors must act hand in hand. This will help the uprooted people, some of whom have been displaced for more than 15 years, to better cope with everyday life and become self-reliant.  

Robust development activities, including upgrading of shelters, investment into educational and job opportunities for the youth, and strengthening basic services, are needed to transform humanitarian action into sustainable livelihoods. “I remain convinced that the situation in Somalia is not hopeless. There are areas that are stable enough to begin reconstructing from there. Concerted and prompt efforts from the authorities, the humanitarian, development and human rights organizations and the international community can bring about urgently needed change and help prevent a further deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation,” the Representative concluded.

During his 14-21 October mission to Somalia, the Representative consulted with the Transitional Federal Government and the administrations of Somaliland and Puntland. He also met United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organizations, as well as civil society representatives.  He visited Dadaab Camp in Kenya, where he met new arrivals from South and Central Somalia, as well as IDP camps and settlements in Galkayo, Bossasso and Hargeisa in Somaliland and Puntland where he met with the displaced.



Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)


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