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UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit Mission Report – 2005 Somalia Toxic Waste

Mission Report

This mission report describes the activities of the UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit (JEU) in response to the alleged presence of toxic waste in Somalia following a tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004.

The huge waves that battered northern Somalia after the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 prompted renewed speculation on the presence of toxic waste. Unconfirmed media reports and anecdotal information suggested that the waves had stirred up hundreds of barrels of toxic waste dumped illegally in the war-racked country during the early 1990s. Similar rumors had been circulated as far back as the late 1980s and the UN had deployed two fact-finding missions, neither of which found any evidence of toxic waste dumping. As the security situation did not allow a third field investigation, the JEU made best use of existing government and humanitarian networks in the country. A questionnaire sent to the Government of Somalia and other Somali partners gave no indication of any sites where waste had been dumped or washed up on the coast. However, the rumors impeded export of cattle and fish, exacerbating an already very precarious situation for the Somali people.

René Nijenhuis, then Officer in Charge/Humanitarian Affairs Officer of the JEU said: “Ideally, government or national scientific institutions should be able to provide a factual and scientific answer to these allegations and should also be able to communicate that effectively to the communities living in fear of the unknown. When they cannot do this, we can help”. He believes that, unfortunately, due to the lack of concrete evidence, the rumors are likely to persist and to resurface from time to time.

Consult the mission report here.

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