The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is reducing its operations in Somalia following concerns over security and the organization’s overall acceptance in the field. In March, the organization lost one of its staff members to a bomb incident outside its offices in Mogadishu. A month later, another staff member was abducted in the capital. These successive incidents have led the organization to reduce its activities in the country. But what does this mean? The ICRC’s head of delegation, Simon Peter Brooks, sheds light on the move.
- Why is ICRC reducing its activities in Somalia?
In March, Abdulhafid was killed in front of our office and in early May, Sonja, a nurse, was abducted from our premises, both in Mogadishu. These two incidents have given us pause. We have to ask ourselves important questions regarding the acceptance and respect of the ICRC in Somalia. This is why we have made the difficult decision to reduce our activities in Somalia.
- Which activities are you reducing and on what basis?
We will continue to support the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS), as well as medicine supplies to the four hospitals we have been supporting – Medina and Keysaney in Mogadishu, Kismayo hospital and the Baidoa hospital. Emergency response operations, including food distributions, water, detention monitoring, and livelihood support including cash will be put on hold until further notice. This move is meant to allow us to continue to alleviate the suffering of the victims while limiting the risk we expose our staff to.
- What are your criteria to return and redeploy operations fully?
It’s important to understand that any assault on our staff compromises our ability to reach the people we serve – those suffering and desperately in need of humanitarian assistance. Our ability to do our work in Somalia is based on solid security guarantees. If we cannot work in safety, then we cannot reach victims. We will only resume operations fully once we have clarity on the security and respect of our staff in the field.
- What about Sonja?
We are seeking clarity on Sonja’s fate. It’s almost three months since she was taken away from us and her abduction puts into question our acceptance and security. As we continue to focus all our efforts towards securing her release, we call for her immediate and unconditional release.
- What about the people of Somalia who are in dire need of aid?
This decision is a very difficult one and one made with a heavy heart. It is not intended to punish the people of Somalia in need of humanitarian aid. Not at all. It simply allows us to understand and clear problems and challenges we face, to ensure we can work safely. The safety of our staff is a priority and if we cannot work in safety, then our ability to respond to those who need our help is compromised.
I urge the readers of our blog to understand that the ICRC is an independent humanitarian organization. It is not associated with any party to the conflict or any government. It seeks to serve people in need and does so with impartiality. Our communication lines remain open and we are always keen on feedback by phone on our toll-free number 373 or by email. We remain committed to protecting and assisting the people of Somalia.
The ICRC has a longstanding history in Somalia spanning over 35 years of conflict response and humanitarian relief. We assist victims of armed conflict and climatic shocks including displaced people, detainees and those in need of health care. Last year, as Somalia struggled with crippling drought, the ICRC provided humanitarian aid to more than 2.6 million people.