File photo shows Somali refugees listen during a meeting between refugee representatives and members of UNHCR delegation at Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya, May 8, 2015.
NAIROBI, Aug. 20 — Seven humanitarian workers have died so far this year and another 10 have been injured in Somalia, the UN top relief official in the Horn of Africa said.
Peter de Clercq, the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Somalia and Humanitarian Coordinator, called for protection of aid workers, saying humanitarian workers are still facing threats and are being prevented at times from bringing relief to those in desperate need.
“They are still facing threats and they are being prevented at times from bringing relief to those in desperate need — this must stop,” he said in a statement issued in Mogadishu on Sunday evening to mark the World Humanitarian Day.
The day aims to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world.
De Clercq warned of the grave threats faced by aid workers in Somalia, where they continue to be targets of armed groups which often abduct and detain them and steal desperately needed relief supplies.
The UN official noted that 74 violent incidents affecting humanitarian personnel, health facilities and assets had been registered in the Horn of Africa country since the beginning of 2018.
Of the 18 aid workers who have been kidnapped this year, six remain in the custody of their captors, including the German nurse Sonja Nientiet who was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross when she was abducted in Mogadishu in May.
De Clercq said that although the number of aid workers who have been targeted in 2018 is lower than the figure for last year, the practice remains a cause for concern.
The Somali government has vowed to take action to reduce the threats facing aid workers.
“Our ministry will work on getting strong policies that protect the well-being of civilians, aid and health workers,” said Hamza Said Hamza, the federal Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management.
Caroline Van Buren, the Country Representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, noted that 2.6 million Somalis have been displaced internally across the country and emphasized the need for tangible solutions to reduce internal displacement.
“We welcome the commitments made by the (federal) government and regional governments to address the issue of evictions by issuing guidelines in line with international and regional standards,” said Van Buren.