October 07, 2009

Somalia: U.S. Government to Set New Aid Terms

6 October 2009

Nairobi — The US government is to put special conditions on its humanitarian grants for at least 13 aid agencies operating in Somalia.

This could unlock millions of dollars in relief resources that had been on hold due to US anti-terrorism rules.

A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued in August said delayed US funding was affecting food relief and other operations.

"It is true that some humanitarian funding was placed on hold, pending resolution of the OFAC [US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control] issue," Russell Brooks, a press officer at the State Department, told IRIN by e-mail.

Now, however, "USAID, State, and Treasury have reached an agreement that will enable humanitarian programmes to move forward, pending implementing partner acceptance of a series of conditions that must be written into each award," Brooks wrote.

Anti-terrorism measures

The delays began earlier in the year when, senior humanitarian sources say, some USAID funding for Somalia was unable to meet the approval of OFAC, which enforces US anti-terrorism and other sanctions.

Large parts of southern and central Somalia are under the control of armed groups regarded as terrorists by the US. The US, in common with the UN, African Union and EU, supports the fragile Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The country as a whole is not subject to US sanctions.

USAID, State and Treasury departments appear to have found a solution for the delivery of aid to continue legally, without violating sanctions on groups or individuals, including Somali Islamist group Al-Shabab.

"It is Al-Shabab, not US bureaucracy, that threatens to deny Somalis urgently needed humanitarian aid," Brooks stated.

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