Aid agencies urge Kenya to allow Somali money transfers

A woman prays near wooden crosses in Nairobi following the massacre of 148 people in Garissa, Kenya, by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab insurgents (AFP Photo/Simon Maina)

Nairobi (AFP) - Aid agencies warned Friday that Kenya's shutting down of money transfer services to Somalia over suspected links to the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab will hit the poorest hardest and jeopardize their operations.

Kenya on Wednesday froze key transfer companies vital for impoverished Somalia, as part of a crackdown on alleged Shebab supporters following the university massacre of almost 150 people by the Islamists last week.

With no formal banking system in the impoverished country, diaspora Somalis use money transfer services to send cash back home to support their families, sending some $1.3 billion (1.1 billion euros) each year, dwarfing foreign aid.

"One out of every three Somali families say that without these remittance flows they would not be able to pay for food, school or basic healthcare," a statement from 15 international aid agencies warned, including Adeso, CARE, Mercy Corps and Oxfam.

"Somali families are losing their only formal, transparent and regulated channel through which to send and receive money."

Many aid agencies are based in Kenya, and the closures will hamper their work, they said.

"Aid agencies working in Somalia also risk losing their only means of transferring money to sustain their daily humanitarian and development operations," the statement added.

"These closures could prove costly, cause inefficiencies, and at worse force some aid agencies to close their operations."