HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19990923]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19990923]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs, 23 September

SOMALIA: Aid activities suspended after murder of UNICEF doctor

UN agencies on Monday suspended operations in central and southern Somalia in protest at the armed ambush on the road between Jowhar and Afgoi on 15 September of a UNICEF doctor, Ayoub Sheikh Yerow, and five travelling companions in which all the passengers were injured and after which Dr Ayoub died from gunshot wounds. While preliminary investigations suggested the attack was the work of bandits, the communities of Benadir, Bay, Bakool, Middle and Lower Shabelle, Middle and Lower Juba, and Gedo "must understand that such incidents undermine the UN's capacity to provide assistance", a UN press release stated.

The UN said its agencies and other humanitarian organisations would discontinue their activities until local authorities took urgent steps to apprehend those responsible, communities in central and southern Somalia showed a "visible commitment" to the security of humanitarian workers, and agencies had a chance to review the security conditions in which staff worked. The Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB), comprising UN agencies, donors and international NGOs, on Tuesday issued a statement saying it was "appalled" by the murder and recommending the discontinuance of aid activities "in the area where the murder took place" until the same three issues were addressed.

Review of suspension to follow memorial services

Memorial services scheduled for Friday in Jowhar, Baidoa, Bossaso, Hargeisa and in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, were described by the UN and SACB as an opportunity to commemorate "an outstanding servant of the Somali people" but also to "reflect the commitment of the Somali people towards preventing such abhorrent acts in the future." Humanitarian organisations would meet afterwards, probably on Saturday, to review their approach to operations in the light of insecurity facing their staff, UN sources told IRIN.

Djibouti claims Somali anarchy "reflects international indifference"

President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh, speaking at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, said continued anarchy in Somalia was due to international indifference and the lack of vigorous and visionary action, "indicative of the failure of global governance to serve poor countries." He said Somali warlords gave no indication that they would ever agree on a lasting settlement, and "the challenge was to establish an authority to fill the vacuum that was continuously exploited by the warlords", a UN statement quoted him as saying. Djibouti proposed measures to resolve the crisis in Somalia that included: holding "a true reconciliation conference" in Somalia; civil society taking greater responsibility there; warlords being charged with crimes against humanity; and regional organisations to which Somalia belonged - principally the OAU and the League of Arab States - redressing the situation using "all necessary means", with the support of the UN.

13 reported killed in Kismayo clashes

At least 13 people have been reported killed in clashes in Kismayo in recent days between Habar Gidir and Marehan clan allies on the one hand and the Absame clan on the other, with many more injured. The fighting was reportedly triggered by ownership of some 'technicals' - the pick-up trucks manned with heavy machine-guns favoured by Somali clan militia groups. According to Somali media reports on Wednesday, calm had returned to the town as intellectuals from the different clans attempted to broker a peace deal that would prevent a recurrence.

Meanwhile, fifteen people were reported killed on Monday in a gun battle in Balad, north of Mogadishu, between the Daud and Matan-Abdulle sub-clans of the Abgal clan, news agencies reported on Tuesday. Eight of the dead were civilians killed by shelling and indiscriminate machine-gun fire at the residential part of town, according to AFP.

DJIBOUTI: Drought situation potentially catastrophic

A multi-agency assessment mission to three of five drought-affected districts in Djibouti has concluded that the current situation affecting the country at large has "the potential to turn into a catastrophe", even considering the fact that drought is endemic in Djibouti, a situation report from UN OCHA stated on Tuesday. The mission estimated that 80,000 people were in need of humanitarian relief, of which 30,000 required immediate assistance. The Ministry of Health has registered 10,000 malnourished children, 3,000 of them severely malnourished in Djibouti district alone, and the mission confirmed malnutrition among children in other districts. The absence of regular vaccination campaigns in health centres visited had also had noticeable effects on the overall health status of the population, it added.

Nomadic populations particularly affected

The report cited widespread water shortages and, in places where water was still available, a high level of salinity rendering it unfit for human consumption, concluding that without rainfall or the trucking of water to affected populations, a life-threatening situation would develop. The economies of nomadic populations were severely affected by the poor state of livestock, while cross-border movement was impossible because of insecurity in neighbouring countries, the report added. The Italian and Norwegian governments, in addition to WFP, UNDP and UNICEF, have responded to the drought situation so far, with water purification units, water tanks, emergency food aid, vaccines and relief logistics. [The full OCHA situation report is available at: http:// ]

ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Asmara urges UN pressure on Ethiopia for peace

Eritrean Foreign Minister Haile Woldensae said on Tuesday, as he left Asmara to attend the UN General Assembly in New York, that he hoped member states would recall the Security Council's endorsement of the OAU Framework Agreement to end the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and pressure Addis Ababa to accept it, the official Eritrean News Agency reported on Wednesday. "The peace package currently being stalled by Ethiopia has been supported by the international community at large and we feel this is the proper time for meaningful pressure to be applied", it quoted Woldensae as saying.

Addis Ababa demands Eritrean withdrawal before border demarcation

The government in Addis Ababa on Monday insisted on identification and verification "on the specific territories from which Eritrea needs to withdraw" before any other steps in the peace process could be taken because "anything less sends the message that borders can be changed by force." Ethiopia demanded a guarantee that all the land it formerly administered would be returned, followed by a restoration of the former civilian administrations, according to a statement from the Office of the Government Spokesperson. "While recognising that the withdrawal of Eritrean troops to the positions they held prior to 6 May 1998 will not prejudge the final status of the territories, in the interim, Ethiopia will not allow the forceful acquisition of its territory to stand", it added.

ETHIOPIA: Food needs for war displaced "remain critical"

WFP has reported receiving an additional donor pledge of 10,000 mt of maize towards its Ethiopian emergency operation to assist populations displaced by the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The total cereal commitment to the operation has now reached some 20,510 mt, or 56 percent of the required 45,350 mt, its latest emergency report stated. WFP said that with a shortfall of over 16,000 mt, current supplies would cover requirements only until the end of September, and that the need to secure additional resources remained critical. A WFP official told IRIN on Thursday that the US, Japan and the Netherlands had pledged US $11.5 million of the US $24.3 million appeal.

Field reports show greater drought-related need than envisaged

The WFP report also stated that while its separate emergency operation for populations affected by crop failure originally targeted 1.2 million people, donor pledges of almost 60,000 mt of food aid within 60 days of launching its appeal had allowed it to distribute to almost 3 million people. A WFP official told IRIN that while the US $40.5 million drought appeal launched in June was "almost fully resourced", the beneficiary requirements had risen substantially since then and WFP was distributing resources quicker than expected. When new government figures for the affected population became available, the agency would be revising its budget requirement upwards, the official said.

Humanitarian sources have also reported that while the overall response to Ethiopia's drought appeal has been positive - with donor pledges allowing rapid distribution of food from the government's National Emergency Food Security Reserve - delivery on the pledges lagged significantly behind.

Nairobi, 23 September 1999: 11:00 gmt


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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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