Five medical aid workers and a civilian man were reportedly kidnapped by Al-Shabaab militants in the Hiiraan region on Tuesday afternoon. The local authorities confirmed the abduction on Wednesday.
The aid workers, who were members of the non-governmental organization Wardi, were abducted while travelling on the road between Farlibah and Baledweyne. They had been providing essential medical services to small villages in the Farlibah area, approximately 45 kilometres from Beledweyne.
Local reports indicate that the authorities in the local administration of Farlibah are deeply concerned about the situation and have revealed that government forces are currently engaged in operations to secure the release of the six individuals abducted by the Al-Shabaab group. However, the whereabouts of the kidnapped aid workers and the civilian man remain unknown.
This incident comes as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that two aid workers died in Somalia between January and March this year, while a total of 112 access incidents were reported across the country during the same period. According to OCHA, movement restrictions were the most frequently reported access constraint and resulted from multiple factors including military operations.
The kidnapping of the aid workers and the civilian man underscores the challenges faced by humanitarian workers in Somalia, where insecurity and access restrictions continue to hamper the delivery of essential services to vulnerable communities. The work of aid workers is critical in providing life-saving assistance, particularly in areas where access to healthcare services is limited.
The Somali government has been working to improve security and increase access to humanitarian assistance in the country. However, the continued presence of Al-Shabaab militants and their ability to carry out abductions and attacks highlights the need for continued efforts to strengthen security and ensure the safety of aid workers.
The international community has also been supporting efforts to improve security and provide humanitarian assistance in Somalia. It is hoped that the kidnapped aid workers and the civilian man will be released unharmed, and that measures will be taken to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers in the country.