Consequences of Access Constraints on the Humanitarian Operation in Somalia
Humanitarian access is defined as the ability of humanitarian actors to reach affected people, as well as the affected population’s ability to access humanitarian assistance and services in a timely and unimpeded manner. Multiple constraints varying from armed hostilities or physical difficulties to excessive and time-consuming administrative requirements may hamper humanitarian access in different contexts.
In Somalia, challenges related to the physical environment constitute a substantial element that complicates humanitarian access. Obstacles related to terrain or climatic events, and the condition of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, substantially limit humanitarian access. For instance, in November 2020, obstacles related to the physical environment that limited or prevented road access amounted to roughly one third of all access challenges reported across Somalia. During this month, flooding affected several districts in Banadir, Lower and Middle Shabelle as well as Lower Juba, limiting or preventing access along the main routes that connect Jowhar to Mogadishu and Afgooye to Wanla Weyn towns.
These physical access constraints have a serious impact on the humanitarian situation in areas that become inaccessible for long periods of time. Not only are critical humanitarian deliveries such as nutrition supplies delayed but the availability of commercial goods is also curtailed, potentially increasing the vulnerability of the affected population. For example, in Jowhar town, which depends on main supplies of food and other essential commodities coming from Mogadishu, humanitarian partners reported shortages of food and other commodities including drugs, as well as a 5 per cent increase in food prices due to limited supplies that are transported via boats or donkey carts.
Climatic events are also an important factor that affect the physical environment, limiting humanitarian access. The most recent example is Cyclone Gati, that made landfall in Bari district on 22 November. Heavy rainfall and strong winds damaged the main road that connects the port town of Bossaso to Qardho town, situated on the crossroads that link major population centres. Road access to areas heavily affected by Cyclone Gati remain extremely challenging, impacting the emergency humanitarian response. Humanitarian partners on the ground noted that some of the main roads were damaged during Cyclone Pawan in December 2019, and further degraded by the heavy rains and flooding of Cyclone Gati.
Compounding other limitations for road movements due to insecurity along the main routes, these physical constraints further complicate humanitarian access across Somalia and contribute to the vulnerability of affected communities. Advocacy for a safe operating environment continues. Following collective efforts and engagement by OCHA and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Bardaale District Council has announced the reopening of the Bardaale airport and efforts are underway to resume humanitarian flights.