UN support for cholera-stricken Somalia includes raw sewage runoffs, hazardous waste dumps Featured

More than a year after United Nations peacekeepers were condemned by their own auditors for heedlessly dumping sewage,  untreated waste water, garbage, medical waste and other dangerous materials in a wide array of war-torn countries, the same horrific health practices have surfaced again, in battered Somalia.

The main difference this time:  the accusations are levelled not at a major force of blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers but at a 595-person U.N. mission known as UNSOS, providing  infrastructure and field support—including safe disposal of sewage and waste-- to some 30,000 or so African Union and Somali National Army forces that are battling Islamist Al Shabaab extremists and struggling to create order in one of the world’s most dangerous countries.

In effect, UNSOS—the acronym stands for United Nations Support Office in Somalia—is the infrastructure backbone of the regional peacekeeping effort, supplying everything from facilities and communication to air and ground transportation services, finance and budgeting, not to mention “waste management services,” as well as sewage and wastewater treatment and a variety of other “infrastructure related to the environmental services.”

The toxic outcomes, however, in a country with some 1.6 million internally displaced persons, where 50 percent of the population is deprived of water and sanitation, and  that is also ravaged by endemic cholera and other infectious diseases, were about the same as other countries where U.N. peacekeepers mishandled the effort, according to watchdogs from the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

The auditors visited Somalia from July to October 2017 and issued a report covering UNSOS activities from January 2015 to the end of last June. The report was completed last December but made public only in mid-January, 2018.