The current drought in Somalia has formed a strong milestone for the work of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (The OIC) in the region; especially after the establishment of the OIC Humanitarian Affairs Department during the Islamic summit in Kampala, 2008.
Only three years after its establishment, the Humanitarian Affairs Department has become a distinguished entity. Valerie Amos, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for Humanitarian Affairs expressed the desire of her organization to expand the scope of work with the OIC in different parts of the world and in Somalia. In October 2010, The OIC managed to sign its agreement with the UN World Food Program which enabled it to open an office in the Somalian capital in late March- a month before the official announcement of Somalia's famine crisis.
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According to officials at the Secretariat General of the OIC office in Jeddah, the big challenge that faced humanitarian activities in the Muslim world was revolved around the stalemate in the workflow system of Islamic relief organizations, especially after the events of September 11. Since then, more legal restrictions tied Islamic relief organizations, as a reuslt funds became very limited. In turn, the ability of most relief organizations to meet the needs of the affected spots became restricted.
Despite such hardships, the OIC has succeeded in expanding its humanitarian activities in Gaza Strip, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia and Gergstan, Niger, Darfur, reaching to Afghanistan and other Muslim countries
Nevertheless, the aid campaign for Somalia was a turning point that attracted the attention of the international community to the possibility of forming a strong partnership with the OIC- specially for helping communities that suffer from disasters and political and security deterioration.
Challenges Still remain
Mr. Ataa al Mannan Bakheet, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Department of the OIC Organization says, “Great international interest in the Organization's work in Somalia reflects a global confidence in its role as a guide to the humanitarian action in the Muslim world, as well as a guarantee to ensure the objectivity of humanitarian activity”
According to Mr. Bakhit, “The international organizations did not only praise the OIC's role. But it even pursued more cooperation”, pointing out to Raj Shah, Director of the United States Agency for International Development who praised the OIC organization in a meeting about Somalia, which was held in the United Nations on September 24.
It is worth mention that about 27 organizations from different Member States of the organization are working under the umbrella of the OIC, as well as organizations representing Muslim minorities in the United States, Britain and South Africa.
Speaking again about Somalia, Mr. Bakhit pointed that the return of displaced Somali persons and refugees in the camps is essential in the process of rehabilitation, especially as the agricultural season is facing great harm in the absence of hundreds of thousands who fled to nearby areas of Mogadishu.
The challenging question remains about the ability of the OIC to continue mobilizing the support of governments and public opinion of millions of Muslims to the victims of Somalia. It is also about the durability of this capacity to cope with the disasters facing many Islamic countries- knowing that 230 million of the world population who are living in poverty ,are living in Muslim countries.