Banning humanitarian agencies from Southern Somalia will worsen the situation for 160,000 severely malnourished children and thousands of people recovering from famine, relief agency officials said.

They spoke after the Al-shabab radical Islamic group banned 16 aid agencies, including some with a Christian focus, on Nov. 28, from areas it controls. Drought and warfare this year have affected millions of Somalis, with hundreds of thousands seeking help at refugee camps. 

“This is a big issue. We are still assessing the situation. We don’t want to jeopardize the possibility of continuing with our work there,” Berhane Woldemichael, the Somalia Program Coordinator of Norwegian Church Aid told ENInews Nov. 29. “If we are not there, it is the people we support who will suffer.”

Several U.N. agencies were on the list, together with international groups including Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council, Concern, Norwegian Church Aid and Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), an independent and lay non-governmental organization based in Milan.

The militants accused the agencies of “financing, aiding and abetting dissident groups intending to destroy the basic tenets of Islamic penal system,” among other accusations.

“This is not the first time [they have issued a ban]. It just shows how much they are interested in the welfare of the people,” said Bishop Giorgio Bertin, president of Caritas Somalia, a Roman Catholic organization.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the seizure of property and equipment belonging to aid groups and U.N. agencies after the militants stormed and looted offices of aid organizations Nov. 28.