Emergency aid simply a necessity when people are dying, says Knapen

Minister for International Cooperation Ben Knapen said in a radio interview this morning that aid organisations, both Dutch and international, had agreed not to pay any money or taxes to the radical Islamic organisation Al Shabaab. Mr Knapen was answering questions about the famine in the Horn of Africa.

‘If everything there was run properly, emergency aid wouldn’t be needed. You can never guarantee 100% that nothing will go wrong. But we are making every effort to ensure that aid doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.’ The United Nations and aid organisations were on top of the situation with inspectors on the ground, said Mr Knapen. ‘But if aid does fall into the wrong hands, immediate action will be taken’. He noted that few organisations can work in areas controlled by Al Shabaab. ‘Emergency aid is strong medicine that has its downsides, but you can’t use that as an excuse to do nothing when you see a mother who can’t feed her child.’

Mr Knapen will not double the amount raised by the public appeal launched by the joint Dutch aid agencies (SHO). ‘At the start of the year, and again recently, we made extra funds available for emergency aid in the Horn of Africa. The public appeal arose separately from that. It’s a very good thing that people are showing compassion in this way. We are also working hard through our own programmes. If more needs to be done, then I am willing to do it. But the SHO’s appeal is an initiative by ordinary citizens, for ordinary citizens,’ said Mr Knapen.

This year the Netherlands has given a total of €155 million to organisations like the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). They can spend that money on emergency aid in the Horn of Africa. The Netherlands has also contributed towards the €158 million given by the European Commission.

On top of these contributions, the government has already set aside an extra €15 million for additional emergency aid in the Horn of Africa. Of this amount, over €6 million was specifically for aid in Somalia. The aid in Somalia is carefully being distributed among the few organisations who can work there despite the obstacles that exist. They carry out stringent checks to ensure the aid gets to the intended recipients.