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Put people before politics to save lives in Somalia, urge agencies

Published on 21 Sep 2011

The world must put people’s lives before politics if is to stand any chance of aiding people suffering from the famine in Somalia, a group of 20 aid agencies said today in an open letter.

While aid is getting through in many areas, it is not at the scale needed to address the enormity of the crisis and hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance. With predicted rains now bringing the threat of deadly disease, a range of restrictions are still preventing the rapid boost in aid that is so desperately needed to save lives.

The letter urged international governments to change their approach to Somalia and enhance diplomatic engagement with the parties to the conflict, to ensure the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid. It said donors should also remove any legal impediments on providing impartial assistance to people living in areas dominated by armed groups.

A focus on military solutions is not the answer and could make things worse, the agencies warned. In the past military action has only led to increased death and suffering, and further reduced humanitarian access.

The agencies called on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and allow aid to be delivered throughout the country.

"Never before have we faced such acute suffering with so many lives at stake," the agencies said. But they warned the crisis could soon get even worse, as the rains predicted for next month threaten to spread disease including cholera, measles and malaria that will decimate communities already ravaged by famine and malnutrition.