The Adventist Development and Relief Agency is one of three humanitarian agencies that Somalia's ruling militant group is asking to leave the region.
Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Warrior Youth), declared in a statement Monday that ADRA, World Vision and Diakonia can no longer operate inside the country because they are "acting as missionaries under the guise of humanitarian work."
In a statement, ADRA denied that it is attempting to proselytize through its humanitarian work and said leaving the area would adversely affect more than 180,000 people. The agency is working to build and rehabilitate wells, provide livelihoods and increase access to education.
A World Vision spokesperson said they were "surprised" to receive the order to cease operations there and that the aid group recognizes the "need to remain impartial in responding to the needy," the Associated Press reported.
Al-Shabaab has claimed affiliation with al-Qaida and responsibility for last month's blasts in Uganda that killed 76 people. The group rules most of Southern Somalia and maintains strict Islamic Sharia law.
As a global international humanitarian organization, ADRA is a signatory of the Code of Conduct for The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, which states that "aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint", that "aid is given regardless of the race, creed, or nationality", and that organizations "shall respect culture and custom."
ADRA said it remains committed to serving the people of Somalia as circumstances allow.
ADRA conducts humanitarian aid in more than 120 countries, and has served in Somalia since 1992. It's work there has focused solely on implementing emergency relief and development interventions through various sectors, including water, sanitation, food security, education, health, infrastructure, institutional capacity building, agricultural support and economic development.
In 2008 alone, more than 650,000 Somalis benefitted from ADRA's humanitarian work, which is located in various regions in northern and south-central Somalia.
For more information, visit adra.org.