In Somalia, aid distribution to about 40 thousand people is
being delayed as a result of Saturday's abduction of a prominent staffer of the
UN refugee agency. The UNHCR says Hassan Mohamed Ali is the
longest-serving agency staff member in Somalia. It describes him as a
humanitarian and human rights activist.
Catherine Weibel is a spokesperson for the UNHCR.
From Nairobi, she talked to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua
about whether there's any new information about the abduction.
"No, UNHCR has had no news since our colleague
was abducted from his house next to Mogadishu on Saturday night. UNHCR has no
idea why our colleague was abducted. All we can say is that he was playing a
key role in our humanitarian efforts in the area around Mogadishu. He was one
of the persons in charge of all the aid and assistance provided to the people
who are displaced after having fled Mogadishu," she says.
Ali was well known in the area. Weibel says, "He
had been working for many years as a humanitarian for UNHCR and he was
providing help…until the day he was taken from his home, where he was living
with his family, with his wife and children."
The abduction has affected agency efforts. "For
the moment, we are still trying to assess the situation, but of course it will
affect our operations… He had been in charge of aid to about 40,000 people
around Mogadishu a month ago. And there was a second wave of distribution,
which was going to take place in three different places around Mogadishu, and
of course these are probably going to be postponed."
Weibel says it's unclear how long the
distribution might be delayed, but the delay will have consequences. "The
people who have fled Mogadishu and who are currently on the road living in very
precarious shelters…they definitely need help…especially to protect their families
from the rains, which have become very heavy in the past two weeks," she says.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio
Guterres has demanded Ali's "immediate and unconditional release." There's been
no response. Weibel says, "To this day we still don't know why he was abducted
and by whom."