When several aid workers didn’t show up to an aid coordination meeting this week in Somalia, a Deputy Minister told reporters their agencies and their aid to thousands at a critical time would be suspended.
Fortunately, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed straightened the situation out, assuring UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Concern, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) that they would continue their operations undeterred. According to Mohamed, “Our foremost task is to attend to the humanitarian needs of our people. To do this we need all the help we can get. My government welcomes and is eager to help facilitate the work any humanitarian agency that wishes to join us in this urgent endeavor.” ”
One would guess that aid coordination meetings in Somalia, a country in which one large proportion of the population is devastated by fighting and the rest of the population is continually besieged by economic depression and environmental catastrophe, would be arenas for rallying collective heroism. However, in a country in which the educational system collapsed two decades ago and many bright leaders are either completely overwhelmed or unable to work in government, coordination meetings tend sometimes to be tense hearings about what has not yet been done.
The Somali government, like the de facto government of the northwest region of Somaliland, faces a no-win scenario in which even in good times the market generates extremely little tax revenue to spend on governing. And so, ministers arrive to coordination meetings essentially sacrificing their pride and admitting to foreigners again and again that they do not have the resources to handle the ongoing crisis by themselves.
Some aid workers are unable to make coordination meetings because they are extremely busy handling an emergency; other times they feel a lack of progress in coordination talks. In this case, the Deputy Minister who claimed that the five agencies were suspended, was perhaps one of the many who simply broke protocol after extreme prolonged stress.
Somalia’s government and aid agencies are rallying this month to meet a consolidated appeal. Sure, new approaches need to be tried and government ministries need to be more careful in relations with their allies. But what’s crucial right now for Somalis is that someone, anyone, work together with them to slow this cycle of hardship.