The Obama administration on Tuesday issued new guidance stating "the U.S. would not prosecute relief agencies for delivering aid to parts of Somalia controlled by the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab, despite concerns that unrestricted aid in the failed state would be diverted to the wrong hands," Inter Press Service reports (Hough, 8/2).
"The United States has placed al-Shabab on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations, a designation which forbids U.S. groups from providing 'material support' to the group that controls large parts of the Horn of Africa nation," Reuters writes (Quinn, 8/2). "While there have been bans in place that prevent terrorist groups from profiting from U.S. humanitarian funds and resources, the U.S. has not specifically prohibited aid to people in need in southern and central Somalia, one senior administration official clarified," IPS reports (8/2).
"No one expects that a U.S. policy change on the anti-terrorism restrictions will end the famine. But aid organizations say that, without the threat of U.S. punishment, their employees will be able to work more easily with their Somali networks to get food into hard-hit areas," the Washington Post writes (Sheridan, 8/1). USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah appeared on the PBS NewsHour on Tuesday to discuss the new guidance (Warner, 8/2). The State Department posted a transcript of the special briefing in which senior administration officials discussed the policy (8/2).
U.N. Agencies Issue Appeals, Warnings
Meanwhile on Tuesday, UNICEF "appeal[ed] to the air transport sector to provide free and discounted cargo space to bring emergency food supplies into the region," the U.N. News Centre reports (8/2). UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, warned in its latest situation report that "[c]hild mortality rates among Somali refugees in Kenya are on the rise and there are 'alarmingly high rates' of malnutrition," according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C (8/3).
In a telephone interview with Reuters, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said the crisis in the Horn of Africa highlights the need for better access to family planning in the region, where the land is not suited for large populations. "We need to improve food production ... and to work with member states to ensure women and particularly young girls have access to education, including sexual education, and access to health services and reproductive health services including family planning," he said (John, 8/2).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.