Aid Agencies Appeal to President Obama:

Mon, 20 April 2009

U.S. Must Respond to Humanitarian Crisis in Somalia
U.S. Response to Piracy Must Not Eclipse Dire Humanitarian Situation Inside the Country

Washington, DC - Six American aid agencies today urged the Obama administration to consider humanitarian needs in its policy review on Somalia. As the latest piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia capture the world's attention, humanitarian organizations warned that the country remains in the midst of a severe humanitarian crisis. More than three million people are in need of emergency assistance inside the country and half a million Somali refugees have fled to neighboring countries.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia is one symptom of appallingly low levels of socio-economic development indicators, as well as almost two decades of a political vacuum inside the country. The undersigned agencies, with decades of experience working on Somalia, are concerned about the devastating humanitarian crisis and the inadequate international response. Recent events should not deter from tackling the underlying causes of this crisis that has driven millions of Somalis from their homes.

The recent high-jacking of American maritime assets should be an opportunity for renewed constructive U.S. engagement.  In the search for long term solutions to counter piracy acts, the Obama administration must prioritize the welfare of the Somali people. A comprehensive U.S. policy response must include robust humanitarian funding for programs inside the country, as well as assistance to neighboring countries where Somalis have fled, including Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The humanitarian crisis requires massive support from the international community, and in particular the U.S. The consolidated humanitarian appeal for 2009 amounts to US$918 million. So far, only US$251 million has been raised, including US$91.9 million by the U.S. government, possibly threatening aid agencies to scale back life saving programs in parts of the country. President Obama must work with U.S. allies to ensure that the Somali people receive life sustaining food, water and shelter.

American Friends Service Committee
International Rescue Committee
Mercy Corps
Oxfam America
Refugees International
World Concern