Relief SCENE:Food
Islamic Countries Extend Humanitarian Aid
OIC pledges $350 Million for Drought-stricken Somalia
By ABDIKAFAR HOSH 08/20/2011
Aid from Kuwait
@Somalia Report
Aid from Kuwait

The United Nations declared recently that famine exists in parts of southern Somalia and warned that some 2.8 million Somalis living in the region, the majority of them women and children, were at risk unless a massive humanitarian effort was made to prevent the catastrophe.

But across the war-torn country, 3.7 million people, nearly half of the Somali population, are now in crisis.

"We need donor countries’ support to address the current needs and prevent a further deterioration of the crisis,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York recently.

Following the international appeal, numerous Islamic countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey, have come out in full swing providing financial support to help avert a humanitarian disaster in a country that has been without a central government for 20 years now.

Somalia Report examines how the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have reached out to the starving Somalis and what this means to the geopolitical power games in the region.

Besides the traditional Western donor countries, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France and Australia, several Islamic nations have increased their humanitarian assistance to Somalia, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims around the world fast and practice abstinence.

According to the OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Islamic member states have pledged $350 million in humanitarian assistance for the famine victims in Somalia.

He said he expected the donations to reach $500 million and pleaded with donor countries in the Islamic world ‘to advance their brotherly support’ to the famine-hit Somalis by helping them to re-build the infrastructure of the agriculture sector.

"We have obtained almost $350 million in pledges, but we expect to raise the commitments to $500 million in a very short time," he told a news conference after a meeting in Istanbul recently.

The emergency meeting of the 57 OIC member states came in the wake of an increasing response from numerous Islamic states to calls from the international community to provide humanitarian help to the famine victims in Somalia.

Turkey’s Humanitarian Support to the Somalia

Turkish Prime Minister Rejeb Tayyip Erdogan urged the Islamic countries to scale up their humanitarian aid for Somalia, scoffing at those he termed as ‘wealthy millionaires used to driving luxury cars’ and Western countries for neglecting the poor Somalis. “The famine and the starvation in Somalia is a litmus test for all humanity not only for Muslim countries,” he told the emergency OIC summit.

Turkey, which hosted the emergency meeting, has pledged $150 million, according to Somali government officials.

In addition, Prime Minister Erdogan confirmed that his government would establish six field clinics inside Somalia and that it would send food and medicine to the war-ravaged country to help the needy.

Both the Turkish Premier and Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu visited Somalia on Friday and toured several IDP camps and hospitals in Mogadishu.

The PM later held a press conference in the Somali capital after meeting with Somalia’s transitional federal president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. He promised to help re-build the main highway connecting the country’s airport to the presidential palace in Mogadishu, establish six hospitals for the drought affected victims and help provide access to water and electricity.

“The world believes that no one can enter Somalia, but we have shown that anybody who is willing can come without any problems,” he said.

The Chairman of the opposition Republican People’s Party chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is also planning to visit the Somali refugees in Dadaab refugee camp, in the northern Kenya. During his planned three-hour tour to the world’s largest refugee camp, the CHP leader is expected to distribute aid donated by his political party and packaged by the Red Crescent, Turkish media said.

Humanitarian assistance from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Islamic Republic of Iran has already been delivered to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Mogadishu as well as to the refugee camps in northern Kenya.

“Three flights from Kuwait loaded with humanitarian assistance donated by the Kuwaiti government landed in Mogadishu recently,” said Abdinasir Mohamud, a Somali official working in the Somalian embassy in Kuwait.

He added that the move followed a directive from the King of Kuwait to express his people’s solidarity with the suffering Somalis.

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) accepted the assistance from the Kuwait and praised the king and the people of Kuwait for the generous support, terming it a brotherly gesture.

Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Somalia’s Prime Minister, received the donation on behalf of his government from Dr. Musa’id Rashid Al Insi, an official from the Kuwaiti government.

“We received this humanitarian aid from our Kuwaiti brothers to help their brothers and sisters in Somalia, who have been affected by the prolonged drought,” Dr. Ali said.

“We have received humanitarian assistance from some member states of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, like Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. They contributed to us different types of food, like flour, rice, dates, milk, and tents for shelter,” he said.

Somali officials praised the Islamic countries saying they had shown their solidarity with the needy people in Somalia, which has been without a central government since 1991.

Mogadishu Insecurity Hampers Food Distribution

Although the Islamic countries have increasingly displayed their solidarity by supporting the suffering in Somalia, it is not certain that the transitional government in the war-torn country will distribute the much needed food aid to the drought victims. According to Aden Abdullahi, one of the victims in Badbaado IDP camp in Mogadishu, the insecurity around the city is hampering the food distribution.

“The TFG is busy taking over the new areas in Mogadishu where al-Shabaab fighters pulled out earlier this month and the donated food supplies are being kept in government stores,” he said.

He claimed that the government was unable to distribute the food to the IDP camps due to insecurity fears. Government soldiers allegedly killed a dozen people recently in Badbaado IDP camp in Dharkanley District as they attempted to loot food aid supplies while being ferried to the camp.

“Everyone in the camp is afraid of the government troops and even the government leaders cannot trust their soldiers,” he explained.

Assistance to the Refugee Camps in Kenya

The assistance from the OIC countries is not only limited to Somalia but it has also trickled into refugee camps in neighboring Kenya. Dadaab is hosting more than 500,000 Somali refugees, according to the latest figures from the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.

“We have received donations from the Islamic countries including Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey to support the refugees coming from the drought-stricken regions in the southern part of Somalia,” said a Kenyan Muslim cleric. He said the donations included cooking oil, tea leaves, sugar, rice, milk and dates.

Local Muslim scholars are working with different charity foundations from the Islamic countries, such as Sheikh Thani Abdullahi Foundation from Qatar, according to Sheikh Said Nur.

Iran Donations to Somalia

The Islamic Republic of Iran has also shipped humanitarian aid to Somalia through Iran’s Red Crescent Society (IRCS), according to Mohamed Abdullahi, a government official in Mogadishu.

Earlier of this week, head of the Rescue and Relief Organization told the Iranian media that three flights loaded with the humanitarian aid from Iran arrived in Somalia.

“The Islamic government of Iran plans to dispatch its fourth convoy for the humanitarian aid to Somalia by sea from the Bandar Abbas port to the Mogadishu port in the coming days,” he told the Iranian news agency, IRNA.

Iranian government officials are also planning to visit in Mogadishu to assess the country’s situation and help boost the humanitarian assistance to the Somali people, reports said.

Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian Foreign Minister is expected in Somalia in the next few days to speed up the food distribution efforts in the drought-affected country. During his visit, Salehi will meet with Somali authorities to discuss the supplies needed by the famine-stricken Horn of African nation as well as ways to hasten aid delivery and distribution among the people, according to IRNA.

Forgotten Regions

Residents of many parts of southern Somalia, including Hiiraan, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Gedo, lower Jubba and Middle Jubba, have increasingly been complaining of being neglected as the pangs of dry spell and drought continue to consume their livelihoods. Most of these regions are controlled by the militant al-Shabaab, who have banned international aid agencies from operating in their territories. As a result, relief efforts have stalled in these areas.

According to the U.N., the malnutrition rates are extremely high in the rebel-held regions.