HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19991015]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19991015]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs, 15 October


SOMALIA: Top official emphasises new UN commitment SOMALIA: Human rights alert over EU asylum plan SOMALIA: New rights officer to monitor conditions SOMALIA: Polio vaccination to proceed in areas of stability SOMALIA: World Vision seed deliveries looted DJIBOUTI: 30,000 targeted for emergency food relief ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Addis Ababa emphasises US mediation ETHIOPIA: $51.8 million grant agreement signed with US ETHIOPIA: 16,000 displaced by flooding in southwest ERITREA: "Poor donor response" to emergency situation

SOMALIA: Top official emphasises new UN commitment

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Vieira De Mello said during a visit to Somalia on Wednesday that the country had been neglected by the international community in recent years but that his visit, specifically requested by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, should be seen as symbolic of a new commitment by the United Nations to helping Somalis in their search for peace and development.

"Africa in general has been neglected. And, within that, Somalia in particular has been neglected," Vieira de Mello told IRIN in Baidoa, during the first visit to Somalia of such a senior UN official since 1993. He said his presence - along with nine UN heads of mission and the European Community representative for Somalia - should also be seen as a message to the international community that immediate measures were urgently needed to fend off the prospect of serious food crises in several areas of southern and central Somalia.

SOMALIA: Human rights alert over EU asylum plan

Earlier this week the UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Somalia, Mona Rishmawi, called on EU member states not to adopt a proposed asylum policy that "could put the human rights and fundamental liberties of Somalis further under jeopardy". Rishmawi expressed alarm at a draft plan that would make it difficult for Somalis to seek asylum in the EU, a UNHCHR press release stated on Tuesday. Though recognising that there was "no national guarantee for protection of human rights", he recommended that the EU enter into "constructive dialogue" with the authorities in more peaceful regions, particularly in the north, "to agree on arrangements for identification and documentation of returnees," the UNHCHR release said. The plan would not grant recognition of these areas, it added.

SOMALIA: New rights officer to monitor conditions

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has appointed a new officer to monitor the human rights situation in Somalia. Based within the office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nairobi, the officer has the task of integrating a rights perspective into all UN interventions in Somalia, supporting Somali human rights NGOs, raising awareness in the area of administration of justice, and assisting Rishmawi in her mission.

SOMALIA: Polio vaccination to proceed in areas of stability

The UN has decided on the phased implementation of a polio vaccination campaign through the more stable and secure areas of Somalia, reaching about 50 percent of an estimated 1.6 million children under five years. Insecure areas would be left until later, an official with the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) told IRIN this week. While there had been "strong pressure" to implement National Immunisation Days (NIDS) across the country in the global drive towards polio eradication by the year 2000, security and logistical issues at field level made it impractical and potentially dangerous in Somalia, he said.

The first vaccination round, to be undertaken from 24-26 October, would include Somaliland in the northwest, Puntland in the northeast, Bay and Bakol, Hiraan and Middle Shabelle. The possible inclusion of Lower Shabelle and parts of Gedo is being considered, but beyond consideration for the first round were Lower and Middle Juba, and Benadir (including Mogadishu). While it was not ideal to reach just 50 percent of the target population in the first round, it was better to do what could be done well - and verifiably - within the context of existing protocols, than to risk disrupting the fragile balance of agency, community and clan relationships, the EPI official told IRIN. A second round of immunisation is scheduled for 28-30 November and a third for early in the new year.

SOMALIA: World Vision seed deliveries looted

The NGO World Vision on Monday had its second truckful of seeds in under a week looted by armed elements outside Baidoa in south-central Somalia. Some 5 or 6 mt of sorghum seed were taken when more than a dozen armed men - apparently rogue elements of the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) which controls Bay and Bakol regions and parts of Middle Shabelle - held up the truck. The seizure of another load was narrowly averted on the same day. Monday's looting was in addition to that of another 6 mt load of seeds from World Vision just days earlier. The seeds need to be distributed urgently because the 'deyer' rains on which their growth depends have already started. Humanitarian agencies protested jointly to the RRA about the incidents and have been continuing negotiations for the return of the seeds.

DJIBOUTI: 30,000 targeted for emergency food relief

The ongoing drought situation in Djibouti on Wednesday prompted WFP to announce a 414 mt emergency feeding programme targeting 30,000 people. Though drought is cyclical in Djibouti, the current cycle was causing serious food insecurity in five districts of the country, three of which border Ethiopia and Eritrea. Women, children and the elderly were extremely vulnerable while the country's nomadic population faced increasing hardship, WFP Country Director Sanda Maina said in a press statement. A joint UN-government drought assessment indicated that between 80,000 and 100,000 people would need urgent food assistance in the coming six months if the current drought continued.

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Addis Ababa emphasises US mediation

Ethiopian President Negasso Gidada said this week that the US had a "paramount role" to play in helping to end the Ethiopia-Eritrea border war, Ethiopian television reported. Receiving the new US ambassador to Ethiopia, Tibor Nagy, Negasso said "aggression should and must not be rewarded and the US government has a paramount role to play in the efforts geared to resolve the border conflict," AFP news agency reported. Both sides have accepted an OAU peace plan in principle, but Ethiopia has insisted on Eritrean "withdrawal from all occupied territory" before it can be implemented.

Meanwhile senior Eritrean foreign affairs official, Tekeste Tesfamariam, said on Wednesday that Ethiopia was "holding the peace process hostage" by demanding withdrawal from disputed territories, including Zela Ambesa and Badme, prior to their demarcation. "If they wish to claim the territory, that is not a problem. Let them allow the process to proceed and see how demarcation will resolve the issue of claims. It is precisely because they wish to avoid demarcation that they now are demanding territories be declared Ethiopian before such a process occurs," the official Erina news agency reported Tekeste as saying.

ETHIOPIA: $51.8 million grant agreement signed with US

Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Cooperation Minister Mulatu Teshome and Tibor Nagy, the new ambassador of the US to Ethiopia, on Thursday signed a US $51.8 million grant agreement on behalf of their respective governments, the Ethiopian News Agency reported on Friday. Under the new agreement, the US has earmarked $35 million to support the Ethiopian national food security programme, $8 million for basic education and the remainder to introduce amendments to the educational and health sector programmes, as well as for democracy and governance initiatives, the report added.

ETHIOPIA: 16,000 displaced by flooding in southwest

More than 16,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gambela State in the southwest of the country and are in need of emergency relief after the River Baro burst its banks, the semi-official Walta Information Centre reported this week. Fifteen thousand of the displaced people were residents of 16 villages in the Itang river basin, Walta quoted Tesfaye Ireso, a provincial official of the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission, as saying.

ERITREA: "Poor donor response" to emergency situation

"The cumulative humanitarian relief response during the last nine months has not been commensurate to the scale and severity of the emergency situation" in Eritrea, and most of the problems faced by vulnerable populations will continue into the new year and beyond, an appeal from Action by Churches Together (ACT) stated on Wednesday. Donor response to appeals by the Eritrea Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC) had not been very encouraging and the emergency situation, due mainly to the war with Ethiopia and prolonged drought, had resulted in an increasing incidence of malaria, diarrhoea and upper respiratory diseases, "especially among children in camps for displaced and deportees (from Ethiopia)," it said.


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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