Target: Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of the Federal Republic of Somalia
Goal: Help meet healthcare needs of the Somali population by providing for the security of foreign aid workers
The Somali state should provide security for international aid groups to assure the availability of essential services to its own population. It is the lack of security that has prompted Doctors Without Borders, MSF (Médecins sans Frontières), to leave Somalia after 22 years of being the only organization to provide medical care in many areas of the country. The non-governmental organization has made the decision to withdraw its staff of approximately 1,500 workers based on the evaluation that the Somali government isn’t seriously committed to punishing those who commit crimes against MSF staff. (The decision to leave couldn’t have come at a worse time, since Somalia’s recent polio outbreak has underlined the country’s urgent need for preventative vaccinations.)
The doctors who deliver babies, perform Caesarean sections, and provide immunizations to head off disease risks do this in conditions of inadequate security that delivers them into the hands of militants who take them hostage or kill them. On top of not ensuring the security of the MSF workers, the Somali government sometimes doesn’t bother to punish the men who take their lives even when it has the chance to. Upset that his contract with the organization wasn’t going to be renewed, a disgruntled Somali MSF worker killed two of his fellow staff members in December 2011 in Mogadishu. Although he was sentenced to a 30-year term in prison, he was released only after serving three months. By allowing a murderer to not have to pay for his despicable act, the Somali government has demonstrated how little it values the brave men and women of MSF who put their lives at risk to provide healthcare for the Somali population.
In the 22 years of their activity in Somalia, MSF has seen 16 of their doctors killed. Recently, the organization has once again had the misfortune of witnessing its staff members caught up in a dangerous situation. Two female Spanish logistics workers were taken hostage in 2011 by men believed to be linked to the militant group Al-Shabaab and held for 21 months in south-central Somalia until their release this July. (Al-Shabaab, the Al-Queda linked militants who control some of the country’s regions and are responsible for many of the attacks on MSF workers, have recently seized and looted an MSF hospital in the Dinsoor district in the southwestern Bay region.)
Until the Somali state either mounts repeated offensives against these militants or at least provides aid workers with security detail to ward off attacks, doctors and other MSF volunteers would not be safe in the country. Sign this petition to urge the Somalian government to take the above-mentioned steps to ensure the security of foreign aid workers.
Dear Hassan Sheikh Mohamud,
Doctors Without Borders workers who are resolved to do their utmost to provide healthcare services to an impoverished population that desperately needs them should not have to be exposed to serious danger. In order to make the operation of foreign aid organizations viable within the country, the Somali government needs to make a serious effort to root out militants and offer protection to the aid workers that they threaten. It should also demonstrate a commitment to punishing the criminals who have been responsible for the benevolent foreigners’ deaths by imposing tough sentences on them — sentences that it does not renege on and actually upholds.
Vouchsafing the security of the aid workers is not just about keeping them out of harm’s way. It is about safeguarding the health of the Somalis who need their presence. A government that is too cowardly to confront militants for the sake of protecting the magnanimous volunteers that save the lives and look after the health of its population cannot claim to have the best interests of its people at heart. The health of its citizens should always be a state’s foremost priority. By abandoning the goal of protecting the safety of foreign aid workers, the Somali government is choosing to neglect the vital health needs of pregnant women, frail babies, and malnourished children — a choice that no government should be proud of making.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Mark Knobil via Wikimedia Commons