Ivan Lewis MP, Labour's Shadow International Development Secretary, commenting on news today that some UN and international aid agencies have been banned from operating inside Somalia, said:
“The news that some UN and international aid agencies have been banned from operating inside Somalia is extremely concerning.
"I am relieved by reports that staff are safe at the moment but it is undoubtedly a distressing situation for them, and their families, to be in.
"Organisations operating out in Somalia are playing a hugely important role. A recent UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs situation report stated ‘the number of people facing imminent starvation has been reduced from 750,000 to 250,000. However, these improvements will only be sustained if the current level of assistance continues, and areas may fall back into famine if humanitarian activities are interrupted or reduced.’ Increased insecurity will disrupt access to the areas where people are in most need of assistance.
"This year the Horn of Africa has experienced one of the worst droughts in sixty years. It has devastated cattle and crops, destroyed livelihoods and created a flood of refugees. A famine has taken hold causing tens of thousands of people to die and threatening thousands more with starvation.
"There are concerns that the situation will deteriorate over the next few months due to high levels of malnutrition, a likely increase in food prices and the spread of diseases. By removing this humanitarian lifeline Al-Shabaab is placing the lives of hundreds of thousands at risk. The UK Government should use all its powers to help these aid agencies to get back into Somalia.”