Headlines & Opinion
2013 & 2012
- Somalia Famine Death Toll Higher than Estimated, Inadequate Aid Among Factors
- Access Barriers Mean Aid Trickling into Syrian Opposition-Controlled Territory
- Holding Armed Groups Accountable
- USAID, Treasury Plan Audits of Programs Related to PVS, Somalia Aid, and OFAC’s License Database
- Senate Appropriations Report Requires Treasury/USAID to Address Barriers to Disaster Response
- Crises in Africa Showcase Complexity of Humanitarian Access in Conflict Zones
- The Hill: How to Help Somalia by Gabor Rona of Human Rights First and Kay Guinane of CSN
- U.S. Senators Call For Reforming Laws that Impede Humanitarian Assistance in Somalia
- Counterterrorism Regulations and Humanitarian Access to the Famine in Somalia
- Al Shabaab and Somalia's Spreading Famine
- State Department Releases New Policy to Allow Famine Aid to Somalia, Treasury Department Releases Limited Guidance
- The President Must Address Life and Death Policy Matters in Somalia
- US to Ease Anti-Terrorism Rules to Help Somali Famine Victims
- Anti-Terror Law Hinders Aid Efforts to Somalia
- Mercy Corps’ Jeremy Konyndyk: Will the US Stand by as Famine Looms in Somalia?
- Index Guages Quality og Humanitarian Assitance of Relief and Recovery
- Now is a Good Time for a Good Faith Standard
- IN-DEPTH: Legal Roadblocks for US Famine Relief to Somalia Creating Humanitarian Crisis
Feb. 22, 2012 telebriefing on Somalia featuring Allan Jury, Director of the U.S. Relations Office for the World Food Programme and Vincent Cochetel, Regional Representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Audio file & transcript available here.
Aug. 10, 2011 telebriefing on Somalia featuring Eric D. Johnson, Associate General Counsel at CARE USA, and Kay Guinane. Audio file & Transcript available here.
- OFAC: Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Private Relief Efforts in Somalia
- State Dept: Aug 2011 Press Briefing on Humanitarian Aid to the Horn of Africa
- The Impact of Counterterrorism Measures on Charities and Donors After 9/11 (Printable handout)
- State Dept: Aug 2011 Background Briefing on Somalia and Delivery of Humanitarian Assistance
- Brookings: Barriers to Access During Humanitarian Crisis
- MSF: Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed
- Sphere Handbook for Humanitarian Responders
- ODI: Why Militaries and NGOs Interact to Protect Civilians
- Paper: IHL and IHRL Work Together to Protect Rights of Civilians
- ODI: Negotiating Humanitarian Access
- Deadly Combination: Disaster, Conflict and the U.S. Material Support Law
- ODI: Humanitarian Action Harmed by Anti-Terror Laws
- Oxfam: Military Policy in Somalia Has Failed
- Humanitarian Space Under Fire in Somalia (DARA)
- Save the Children & Oxfam: Inaction and Delayed Response to Famine Cost Thousands of Lives
- Humanitarian Forum: 10 Ways the International Community Can Address Somalia's Crisis
- Security Measures that Restrict Humanitarian Access Hurt Vulnerable Civilians
- Oxfam Report Finds that Lack of Access Leaves Civilians Vulnerable
- Report: Lack of Access Leaves Civilians Vulnerable
- Report: More Aid Reduces Terrorism Threat in Horn of Africa
- Report: "Freind Not Foe" Documents Negative Impacts of Counterterrorism Measures, Calls on Civil Society to Defend Positive Role
A drastic reduction in humanitarian assistance, widespread conflict and drought combined to make the 2011 famine in Somalia the most deadly in the past 25 years, a May 2013 study finds. Commissioned by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSnet), the study estimates that between October 2010 and April 2012, nearly five percent of the region's population and 10 percent of its children died because of severe food shortages. It also noted “that limited access to most of the affected population, resulting from widespread insecurity and operating restrictions imposed by several relief agencies, was a major constraint.” [p. 5] The presence of al-Shabab, a group on the U.S. terrorist list, in famine affected areas made legal restrictions an issue for aid groups.
The Charity & Security Network has sent letters to leaders in the Senate and House calling for hearings to determine how U.S. law contributed to the most deadly famine in the past 25 years by restricting humanitarian assistance during the 2010-2012 crisis in Somalia. A new study by USAID and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization found a drastic reduction in humanitarian assistance, combined with widespread conflict and drought, contributed to a death rate much higher than previously known.
Congress should investigate how U.S. law restricted humanitarian assistance to the people of Somalia, especially children, who made up 52 percent of all fatalities. It must also look at how the licensing process at the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control failed to effectively work with U.S. charities that wanted to conduct humanitarian operations in south and central Somalia, the areas hardest hit by the crisis, but were unable due to concerns of violating U.S. law.
A drastic reduction in humanitarian assistance, widespread conflict and drought combined to make the 2011 famine in Somalia the most deadly in the past 25 years, a May 2013 study finds. Commissioned by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSnet), the study estimates that between October 2010 and April 2012, nearly five percent of the region's population and 10 percent of its children died because of severe food shortages. The presence of al-Shabab, a group on the U.S. terrorist list, in famine affected areas made legal restrictions an issue for aid groups.
Syrians living in opposition-controlled areas continue to bear the brunt of the violence and have received a fraction of the assistance they need, according to aid groups working in the region. Security constraints and lack of access to much of the northern and central parts of the country have hampered aid delivery and only a handful of international aid groups, many working covertly and at great risk, reach these areas. On April 5, 2013, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that the “absence of humanitarian assistance could have catastrophic consequences” for the people of Syria for years to come. The two year conflict has displaced nearly four million Syrians across the country and forced over a million more into crowded refugee camps in neighboring states.
On April 4, 2013 President Obama sent notice to Congress that he is continuing Executive Order (EO)13536, which declared an emergency with respect to Somalia in April 2010 and designated al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization. The notice said continuation is necessary despite U.S. in January 2013 recognition of Somalia’s new government. It attached an April 8 Federal Register notice which specifically referred to al-Shabaab as a security threat in Somalia.
Two years after the start of the uprising in Syria, hearings in both houses of Congress in March 2013 examined the effectiveness and challenges for organizations assisting Syrians affected by the crisis. Speakers at both hearings, including representatives of the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the United Nations, provided on-the-ground assessments and described the complex and dangerous environment in which aid organizations work. It is estimated that more than 2.5 million Syrians are displaced inside the country and another 1 million refugees have fled into neighboring states to avoid the violence. Topics covered included problems getting access to those in need, branding aid and its impact on safety, and the influence of extremists in the Syrian opposition.
A September 2012 paper in the Asia-Pacific Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law explores the distinction and relationship between the protection of civilians in armed conflict under international humanitarian law and by the use of force under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. It demonstrates that, while the Security Council has increasingly authorized the use of force to protect civilians in armed conflict, international humanitarian law “remains the principal means of protecting civilians in armed conflict.”
Lack of access to Somalis in need was not only an obstacle to alleviating the extreme food shortages in Somalia but also a contributing factor in creating the crisis, according to an April 2012 report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The authors argue that the political landscape in the conflict-ravaged country has become so complex and tainted that restrictions imposed on aid delivery have made it difficult for humanitarian actors to respond impartially and proportionately to the enormous need. As a result, assistance has been limited to a handful of places, and responding to the threats facing the most vulnerable civilians have been inadequate. The combination of drought, escalating food prices, and nearly twenty years of conflict have left millions of Somalis displaced and in need of life-saving assistance.
Even in some of the most complex conflict environments around the world, militaries and humanitarian actors can constructively interact in the interest of protecting civilians, according to an August 2012 report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). Written by Victoria Metcalfe, the report considers the risks and challenges of interaction between such groups, explains why such engagement is often essential to reduce human suffering, and highlights practical experiences from the field.