UN says 15 aid workers killed in Somalia in 2020

File photo shows Somali refugees listen during a meeting between refugee representatives and members of UNHCR delegation at Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya, May 8, 2015. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)

The UN humanitarian agency said Wednesday attacks on aid workers delivering humanitarian supplies in Somalia resulted in the death of 15 aid workers in 2020.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 12 workers were injured, 24 abducted and 14 arrested in 2020 in which 56 incidents involving aid workers were reported.

“In a single tragic incident, seven healthcare workers were abducted and subsequently murdered. Several cases of the confiscation of humanitarian supplies, robbery and the harassment of humanitarian personnel were also reported,” OCHA said in its latest humanitarian report.

The UN relief agency said violence against humanitarian personnel and facilities was one of the major access challenges alongside the ability of humanitarian workers to reach affected communities and support sustained programming.

According to OCHA, humanitarian access challenges were most frequently reported in South West, Jubbaland and Hirshabelle states, which combined made up some 53 percent of all access incidents reported in Somalia in 2020.

It said the main constraint recorded was for the restriction of movement of humanitarian supplies and personnel.

“This included illegal taxation, roadblocks, checkpoints imposed by al-Shabab and clan-related militias, ongoing hostilities among armed actors, military operations, and improvised explosive device attacks as well as the overall security situation, which was marked by unpredictability,” said OCHA.

These, the UN agency said, resulted in restrictions or suspensions of movement for civilians and humanitarians alike.

It said COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the government meant that many humanitarian organizations had to modify their ways of reaching those in need.

“The diversity of access challenges in Somalia not only creates serious obstacles for overland movement but also amplifies the importance of air access,” OCHA said.