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ADRA among agencies calling for eased restrictions on humanitarian aid in Somalia

Open letter asks factions within country to 'put people before politics'

September 29, 2011 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | ANN staff

The humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is among 20 non-governmental agencies publically calling for a dramatic shift in current restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia.

An estimated 750,000 lives are now at risk in the East African country, where an insurgent group has attempted to ban Western aid agencies from the country and block starving Somalis from fleeing the country to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

Low rainfall across much of the Horn of Africa, which includes Somalia, has contributed to the region's worst drought in 60 years. Six of the country's regions have now declared famine. In recent months, political instability within the country has exacerbated the situation.

In an open letter last week, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency joined other such organizations to call for an immediate and full "cessation of hostilities" across Somalia. The letter also asked for "free passage of assistance and for those seeking assistance" and the removal of "restrictions on the delivery of impartial aid."

With the onset of autumn rains anticipated in the coming weeks, fears of the spread of cholera and malaria are rising.

Such diseases "will have a devastating effect on malnourished [Somalis]," agency officials stated in the letter. "Current restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance are preventing the rapid scale-up of aid that is so desperately needed," they said.

The letter called for "all-inclusive dialogue" and warned against the use of force in increasing humanitarian aid, citing the country's recent history, in which military action "has often led to increased death and suffering, and further reduced humanitarian access."

ADRA's recent efforts in Somalia have been "challenging," a press release from the agency stated last week. "However, the agency remains committed to the people of Somalia and continues to provide aid as circumstances allow."

ADRA and other agencies are calling the next few months in the Somalia "pivotal," where "putting people before politics could save thousands of lives."

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