Oxfam urges sobriety in donor meeting

April 23, 2009 12:00 am

, BRUSSELS, Apr 23 — Humanitarian organisation Oxfam is urging donor countries not to allow the issue of piracy overshadows the humanitarian emergency faced by over three million people in Somalia.

In a statement on Thursday Oxfam urged donors to Somalia meeting in Brussels to consider the plight of those facing hunger and not to allow the piracy crisis derail their efforts and deliberations.

“The piracy issue that has grabbed international headlines is a symptom of deeper issues that have gone unaddressed ever since the collapse of the national government in 1991,” said Robert Maletta, policy advisor for Oxfam. “Without economic opportunities offering alternatives to criminality and without law and order to curb these activities, then the massive economic returns of hijacking ships will continue to drive piracy.”

Increased capture of vessels in the Somalia coastline has threatened to scuttle humanitarian efforts in the Horn of Africa country that has not had a stable government for the last two decades. Mr Maletta urged the International community to urgently focus their attention on finding ways to assist the millions of people in desperate need.

“The plight of the Somali people and ways to alleviate their suffering should be top of the agenda of donor governments in Brussels,” he said. 

“Today’s international meeting, sponsored by the European Union and the United Nations, comes at a critical time when over 3.2 million Somalis are in desperate need of emergency assistance, a 77 percent increase since January 2008. More than one million people have fled their homes in the last two years,” Oxfam said.

Oxfam reckoned that the already chaotic situation has been aggravated by an ongoing drought which has been deepening across the country. “It has devastated people’s incomes leaving the majority with little or no access to clean water. Families are finding it difficult to meet their most basic needs as prices for basic food items are at record high levels—many have doubled since this time last year,” Mr Maletta said.

Beyond aid, Oxfam called on nations to investigate reported violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in the country, noting that lack of accountability has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Somalia as civilians continue to get caught in the crossfire and are forced to flee from their homes in huge numbers. 

Oxfam welcomes the call by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to hold groups involved in piracy to account. “The international community must hold those same standards to groups who violate international humanitarian and human rights laws in the country,” said Mr Maletta.

Acute malnutrition rates across most of South and Central Somalia are above the UN’s 15 percent emergency threshold. One in six children in Somalia is acutely malnourished while one in 20 children (60,000) is severely malnourished and at risk of death if they do not receive specialist care .  According to UNICEF only 29 percent of Somalia’s population has access to clean drinking water. 

Oxfam works with partners to deliver aid in Somalia and is currently supporting programs targeting over 350,000 vulnerable people in the country. 


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