-- The top humanitarian official for Somalia says he's
"gravely concerned" about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the
country. Mark Bowden, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the country,
says UN and ngo relief workers are at risk.
Last Friday, two Somali nationals, working for ngos, were killed.
From Nairobi, Bowden spoke to VOA English to
Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the situation in Somalia.
"I'm very worried because we're moving, edging
towards crisis…in food security terms. It's suffered three years of drought.
Food prices (are) astronomically high in Somalia with a lot of pressure on the
local population. And to top that, there's also a lot of instability leading to
a very large displaced population. Now, with all that as the background, the
humanitarian organizations…are being confronted with a rash of abductions and
kidnappings and also killings of staff, which frankly at this time is an
intolerable burden to have to cope with for the Somalia population, as much as
those involved in providing aid," he says.
As a result, relief workers have little access to
those in need.
It's not the first time humanitarian officials
have painted such a bleak picture for Somalia, yet the situation continues to
worsen. Asked whether he finds this frustrating, Bowden says, "Well, it is
frustrating… It's also deeply worrying… Despite the best efforts of the
community, and I know the Somali communities are trying very hard to provide
support and protection, these people are being abducted. And we can see a
But is the crisis similar to the situation in
Somalia in the early 1990's? Bowden says, "It's a very different situation, but
it's severe in a different way. We are at the moment two months or so away from
preventing large-scale hunger. We are able to get food through in Somalia, but
we are not able to provide the health support and other service support and
delivery of non-food items needed at this stage. And just as importantly, we're
not able to do the technical assessments that are required to provide the sort
of prevention that's necessary."
Bowden says the release of abducted
humanitarian workers would help relieve the situation, as well as armed groups
ceasing their attacks on aid agencies and trucks.