Humanitarian Assistance in Somalia Impaired

MSF demands exemption of flight ban

Nairobi, 26 June 2003 - A flight ban introduced June 20 by the Kenyan government for all flights to Somalia from Kenya is severely hampering humanitarian assistance. Assistance for health, nutrition, water and other basic services for the most vulnerable populations in Somalia is almost completely dependent on transports from Nairobi. The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) demands that the Kenyan government issues an exemption to the flight ban for all humanitarian flights between Kenya and Somalia. So far, requests by MSF for such an exemption have not been granted.

Unless flights resume quickly, ongoing MSF humanitarian assistance programs in Somalia, including services in three hospitals and 14 health centers, will be disrupted. Even more critical is the effect the flight ban will have on MSF's ability to respond to medical emergencies in the country. Currently MSF is responding to two separate cholera outbreaks and, before the flight ban, planned to launch an urgently needed emergency nutritional program for malnourished children in the Lower Juba region. This is in response to a nutritional crisis that has already resulted in the deaths of more than 20 children in the last ten days. Further deaths are anticipated unless MSF is able to extend much needed medical support.

The current flight ban directly impacts the ability of MSF to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Somalia as Kenya serves as a logistical and managerial support base to all MSF medical projects in Somalia. Redirection of this support through another country neighboring Somalia is currently not a viable option.