Rapidly deteriorating relations with state authority cited as cause
NAIROBI, KENYA, Friday 27 May 2005 – Effective yesterday, UNICEF suspended its operations through its office in Bossaso, Northeast Somalia (‘Puntland’), UNICEF Somalia Representative, Jesper Morch announced in Nairobi, Kenya.
In the past, death threats have been made against some UNICEF Bossaso-based international staff requiring their relocation to Nairobi. The most recent threats were issued earlier this month against one staff member. The threats were very specific about how, where and when the officer would be targeted. Following written and verbal guarantees from Puntland President, Mohamud Muse Hirsi “Adde,” that the staff member’s security would be assured, plans were made for his return to Bossaso.
However, on Friday 20 May, President Mohamud Muse Hirsi “Adde” not only reneged on these assurances but indicated that the officer was no longer welcome in Puntland. In addition, the President told the UNICEF office how to proceed with a car rental contract and warned that Government of Puntland decisions were not to be questioned.
‘’Such actions have left UNICEF staff vulnerable, at risk and without further recourse to protection and arbitration. In view of the absence of security assurances from the President and outright disregard of the Memorandum of Cooperation signed in 2002 between the Puntland State Authority and the International Aid Community, UNICEF Somalia has no recourse but to withdraw from Puntland State and suspend its programme activities indefinitely,’’ said Mr Morch. ‘’UNICEF can no longer guarantee that its resources will be spent as intended and in accordance with its rules, regulations and standard procedures, which clearly are being disregarded and disrespected by some of Puntland's authorities including the President himself.’’
Puntland, a semi-autonomous state within Somalia, has its own president, but unlike Northwest Somalia (‘Somaliland’) which has declared sovereignty, Puntland has always vowed to remain an integral part of Somalia. As elsewhere in Somalia, where it has a presence, UNICEF’s work in Puntland has focused on health, nutrition, water and environmental sanitation, education, youth development, HIV/AIDS, child protection and communication for development.
Among projects suspended are development activities in Tsunami-affected areas along the Northeast Somalia coastline. Hafun, a town in Puntland, was the worst-hit by the Tsunami. “Fortunately, we are no longer in the emergency phase of our response to the December disaster. We are now in the development phase in which UNICEF has provided support to projects in education, health and water and environmental sanitation in Hafun and neighbouring areas. Regrettably, these will be affected. We hope that our recent support and capacity-building will enable the communities to continue these projects until we are able to resume operations,’’ said Mr. Morch.
UNICEF Somalia’s suspension of activities was taken following consultations with its headquarters in New York, the UN Somalia Country Team, the UN Somalia Security Management Team and the Somalia Aid Coordination Body’s (SACB) Executive Committee.
The decision taken by UNICEF halts all but the most essential services such as making payments and managing vaccine storage facilities. Three international staff members, formerly based in Bossaso, have been relocated to Nairobi.
‘’While UNICEF has a role to play in the survival, development and protection of Puntland's children, it can only do so if the President of Puntland and his administration are able to provide UNICEF with an environment conducive to the resumption of our activities. Though UNICEF is suspending activities, it is not suspending discussion. UNICEF looks forward to the day when collaboration can resume, but must insist that an environment of safety, respect and transparency is reestablished before that can take place,’’ said Mr. Morch.
For further information contact:
Jesper Morch, UNICEF Somalia. Email: JMORCH@unicef.org.
Denise Shepherd Johnson, UNICEF Somalia.
Tel: +254-20-623950/53/55/70. Mobile: +254-722-719-867.