The abduction of two foreign aid workers in southern Somalia on Monday is the latest incidence of deteriorating conditions that threaten the future of humanitarian relief in a nation torn by internal strife. The foreign nationals, a Briton and a Kenyan, are sub-contractors for the Indian company Genesys International Corporation, carrying out a flood control and irrigation survey of two southern Somali rivers – the Jubba and the Shabelle – for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). They were snared at gunpoint and reportedly taken to a nearby town. UN Development Program (UNDP) communications adviser Sue Morrell says the men are reportedly in good condition, but not much else is known of their whereabouts.
“We’ve effectively got nothing new that I can say. The men are well, but there is no contact between anybody and the abductors. No demands of any sort have been made. It’s not in fact a hopeless situation, so we have to play it very, very carefully,” she said.
Morrell said it was “her understanding that they were in their car” at the time of their abduction, but that no negotiations are taking place to gain the captives’ release.
NGOs have repeatedly warned of a humanitarian disaster engulfing Somalia as a combination of strife, drought, and high food prices place higher demands on aid workers and the clientele they serve. Sporadic attacks on relief teams and a looting of international rescue supplies continues to put the country’s population in jeopardy, particularly the hundreds of thousands of Somalis displaced from their homes and those dependent on humanitarian help.