Al-Shabaab Bans ICRC for Contaminated Food
Militants Destroy Aid Rations, ICRC Hits Back
By SUCAAD MIRE 01/30/2012
Al-Shabaab Burning ICRC Aid
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Al-Shabaab Burning ICRC Aid

The al-Shabaab militant group battling for control of Somalia permanently banned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from operating in regions under its control, blaming the group for providing contaminated food and betraying the trust of the local population.

''Following the repeated distribution of expired food and false accusation...the Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies (OSAFA) has decided to fully terminate the contract of ICRC,'' al-Shabaab said today in a statement.

The Islamic group accused the ICRC of betraying the Somali people in al-Shabaab-controlled areas.

''Despite being offered unrivalled access to all the regions governed by the Mujahideen in South and Central Somalia, the International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly betrayed the trust conferred on it by the local population," added the statement and suggested that more than half of the food provided by the ICRC was contaminated.

"A thorough inspection of ICRC warehouses and food depots throughout the Islamic Administrations governed by the Mujahideen has revealed that up to 70% of the food stored for distribution by the organisation was deemed unfit for human consumption, posing a considerable health hazard and exposing the vulnerable recipients to acute illnesses," said the statement.

To demonstrate their seriousness, the group burned 2,000 metric tones of ICRC rations in Marka of Somalia's Lower Shabelle region.

In January of this year, the ICRC temporarily suspended aid distribution intended for 1.1 million people in urgent need after having its supplies blocked in parts of Somalia.

''The suspension will continue until we receive assurance from authorities controlling these areas that distributions take place unimpeded and reach all those in need, as previously agreed,'' Patrick Vial, the head of the ICRC delegation for Somalia, said in a statement at the time of the incident.

ICRC was one of few humanitarian organizations that have been providing humanitarian aid in southern and central Somalia.

ICRC Responds to Allegations

The ICRC has hit back at al-Shabaab's accusations and issued the following statement on February 2, 2012:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regrets the decision of the Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies of the Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen to terminate the agreement under which the ICRC was allowed to deliver emergency food aid in Al-Shabaab administered areas of Somalia.

"Under the agreement, we provided more than 1.2 million people living in central and southern Somalia with one-month food rations between June and December 2011," said Daniel Duvillard, the ICRC's head of operations for East Africa. "The food distributions helped address severe malnutrition among the population."

Despite adverse conditions faced by the ICRC during this emergency operation, the organization succeeded in distributing more than 17,000 tonnes of rice, beans and oil directly to the neediest people in more than 1,600 different places. As a result of heat, moisture and exposure to heavy rain, six per cent of the food intended for distribution (nearly 1,000 tonnes of beans) was found to have deteriorated. "Those beans were either withdrawn by the ICRC or destroyed by the Al-Shabaab authorities," said Mr Duvillard. "No food suspected to be unfit for human consumption was distributed to aid recipients in Somalia."

In the current circumstances, the ICRC remains unable to retrieve a food consignment intended for distribution to 240,000 people in the Middle Shabelle and Galgaduud regions that has been blocked by the Al-Shabaab authorities in Jowhar. This situation led the ICRC to suspend its food distributions in mid-January.

The ICRC remains fully committed to helping Somalis overcome recurrent humanitarian crises, improve their livelihoods and enhance their access to health care, as it has done for the past 30 years.

HSM Statement
HSM Statement