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Don't co-opt aid into Somalia campaign: MSF

Friday, March 1, 2013

New York, Mar 1 (IANS): Efforts are on at the UN to integrate humanitarian assistance into the international military campaign against opponents of Somalia's government that will further threaten the safe delivery of impartial aid to Somalis, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said.

The UN Security Council is currently deliberating the future structure of the UN's mission in Somalia.
Under discussion is the possible inclusion of humanitarian assistance within the broader political and military agenda for Somalia.

Such an approach, in a country where the ability to provide relief is already severely compromised, could generate distrust of aid groups, MSF said Thursday.

"As many Somalis continue to struggle to obtain the basic necessities for survival, such as food, health care and protection from violence, humanitarian assistance must remain a priority and it must remain completely independent of any political agenda," said Jerome Oberreit, the MSF secretary general.

"The humanitarian aid system must not be co-opted as an implementing partner of counter-insurgency or stabilization efforts in Somalia."

Ensuring the safety of patients and medical staff remains a major challenge, it said.

Aid must therefore remain independent and impartial so that humanitarian organizations can try to negotiate access to populations in need with all parties to the conflict and mitigate security risks as much as possible, it added.

Attempts to further politicize humanitarian aid will put patients and aid workers in even greater danger, MSF said.

"As we've seen previously in Somalia, and in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Leone and Angola, when military stabilization or peacekeeping efforts integrate humanitarian aid as a tool to advance political and security objectives, aid actors, including health workers, are invariably delegitimized and prevented from reaching populations trapped in conflict," said Oberreit.

"In extreme cases, aid has even been denied to populations to serve political interests of stabilization efforts. Humanitarian assistance must be driven purely by the actual needs of a population, and not predicated upon any other agenda."


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