Peacekeeping: The No-Aid Zone

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December 6, 2010: UN and NGO aid groups face an impossible situation in southern Somalia, where several million Somalis are starving because local Islamic militants have halted aid efforts. It's been suggested that a deal be made to allow the Islamic terrorists to take part of the aid, if they will let the rest get through to the people who really need it. That probably won't work, but it demonstrates how desperate the situation is.

For the last 18 months, the main local Islamic terrorist group, Al Shabaab, has been banning more and more NGOs. This is seen as an effort to intimidate the NGOs, and make it easier for al Shabaab to extort money and goods from the NGOs that bring in food, and other relief supplies, for the millions of Somalis who are threatened by starvation. But it turned out that many al Shabaab believed their own propaganda; that the foreign groups were spies, and unIslamic. These relief operations were already crippled by theft and extortion, carried out by Somali businesses hired to help move and distribute the supplies. Al Shabaab makes deals with these groups to get a cut of the cash and loot. Stealing from thieves, as it were. One UN investigation of these practices was interrupted when the investigators were threatened with death if they did not back off. Many nations are refusing to contribute money or aid for Somalia anymore, because so much of it is simply being stolen. The UN estimates that half the aid sent in was being stolen by Islamic terrorists, bandits or the local companies hired to transport and distribute the aid.  Now there is very little to steal, because little is getting in. More and more starving Somalis are fleeing to neighboring countries, particularly Kenya.

There are very few foreign aid workers in southern Somalia now. The few NGOs that remain use local Somali employees to run operations. But the Somali employees can be kidnapped or intimidated. In effect, Somalia has become a "no-aid" zone.

 

 

 


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