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KENYAN FLIGHT BAN THREATENS AID DELIVERY...

2003.07.08
■ KENYAN FLIGHT BAN THREATENS AID DELIVERY TO SOMALIA Nairobi, 04 July 2003 - The Kenyan ban on flights to Somalia is having a serious impact on the efforts of humanitarian agencies to assist the population in that country, with the most adverse effect on vulnerable children, families and poor communities, UNICEF Somalia Representative, Jesper Morch, said today. The Government of Kenya announced a ban on flights to and from Somalia on 21 June 2003, citing concerns for possible terrorist related activities. UN and international humanitarian operations for Somalia are based primarily in Nairobi due to the prevailing instability and lack of central government in Somalia. Within an environment fraught with insecurity, aid flights are the lifeblood of UN and NGO operations in Somalia transporting relief personnel and vital supplies. In a country that was already one of the poorest in the world, struggling with the effects of more than a decade of civil conflict, the continuity of humanitarian assistance including support to local aid partners has been crucial in keeping the situation from deteriorating further. The flight ban, soon to enter its third week, has directly impeded aid agency capacities to re-supply and ensure ongoing monitoring and coordination. Given the history of cholera and other disease outbreaks in the country, particularly in the south, people are now exposed to even greater risk. "The ability of the UN and its partners to assess the needs and implement humanitarian interventions for affected populations is being increasingly undermined by the flight ban,’’ said Mr Morch. ’’Coming at a time when Somali leaders are discussing peace and national reconciliation, and trying to bring back peace to their country, the continuation of the ban represents a very discouraging situation." The impact of the ban is greatest on central and southern parts of Somalia which are more dependent on direct flights from Kenya. Some two thirds of the country’s total population of an estimated 6.5 million people are found here including most of the urban poor, war displaced and other marginalized communities, spread across a large geographic area where access to humanitarian services remains constrained. While limited flight operations continue within the country, the longer-term consequences of the Kenyan ban will mean greater cost and complications in the provision of humanitarian assistance, including the possible shifting of overall flight operations to neighbouring countries. UNICEF-supported activities that are being severely curtailed as the result of the ban include: · A special programme of immunization in Bardera, Gedo region, against the six killer childhood diseases for a targeted 8000 children aged under five years, and 1600 pregnant women against tetanus toxoid. · Distribution of supplementary feeding supplies for malnourished children in Belet Weyne, Hiran region, scheduled for this week. · Construction of 20 primary schools. · Training - in Mogadishu and Kismayo of 320 teachers, and in Jowhar, Middle Shabelle region, of 22 community members in borehole maintenance.. · Medical and immunization supplies’ distribution. While UNICEF and other agencies are maintaining staff on the ground, the longer direct access to and from Kenya remains blocked, the greater the risk of reversing progress already made in humanitarian interventions, achieved often at great odds due to the ongoing conflict in the country. UNICEF joins other humanitarian partners in urging the Government of Kenya to lift the ban on humanitarian flights to and from Somalia.
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