UN agencies mark end of year-long aid deliveries in the line of fire

The UN humanitarian response in Somalia was heavily affected by insecurity on the ground and the targeting of aid convoys and aerial delivery of aid supplies to regions not covered by roads in Somalia, a UN agency said on Friday.

The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its situation update on Friday that the humanitarian deliveries were troubled due to the closure of some airports which were used to make deliveries after various aviation incidences.

“Air transport is an important tool in enabling humanitarian access and humanitarian delivery but comes with risks and challenges,” UN OCHA said in its report.

In Somalia, with a limited road network outside major urban centres and inaccessibility to some districts – in particular those in southern and central regions – due to poor infrastructure and the fluid security situation, road movement and security restrictions frequently hamper humanitarians’ access to deliver much needed supplies to those in need, OCHA said.

UN aid officials relied on UN and commercial flights to transport people and aid across the Horn of Africa country.

However, these modalities have been met with challenges in 2020, including two incidents directly involving aircraft engaged in delivering humanitarian supplies.

On 4 May, a chartered cargo plane carrying mosquito nets for the internally displaced populations (IDPs) in the town of Bardaale was reportedly shot down by security forces while landing in a case of mistaken identity.

The aid disaster led to the death of all six people on board. As a result of the incident, the airport at Bardaale was closed.

While supplies continued to be flown into Baidoa, South Western Somalia, access by road to Bardaale using commercial contractors was intermittent done due to insecurity, restricting the flow of humanitarian aid, the UN OCHA said.

Meanwhile, in late May, a World Food Programme (WFP) chartered aircraft carrying humanitarian supplies to Qansax Dheere was hit by ground fire from unknown perpetrators.

There were no reported casualties or significant damage. However, as a result, flights to Qansax Dheere were immediately suspended, consequently affecting partners’ ability to replenish stocks, UN OCHA said.

Elsewhere, Ceel Waaq airport was refurbished earlier in the year but remains closed to both humanitarian and commercial flights, awaiting security and Civil Aviation Agency clearances before it reopens.

Meanwhile, mortar attacks against security forces and troops at the airfields in Baidoa, Baraawe, Bulo Burto and Dinsoor all raise concerns for the security of humanitarian flights.

The Al Shabaab launched mortar attacks against Dhuusamarreeb airport in late October and early November.

The second attack targeted an aircraft carrying the President of Galmudug as it was taking off and resulted in the temporary closure of the airfield, preventing the transport of humanitarian supplies.

The UN officials are continuing to lobby for a safe operating environment.

Following collective efforts and engagement by OCHA and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Bardaale District Council has announced the reopening of the Bardaale airport and efforts are underway to resume humanitarian flights, the aid officials said. (PANA/NAN)

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