The top United Nations relief official today said Somalia has made fragile gains in fight against famine and require the sustained support and engagement of the international community.
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden said that international humanitarian support last year in the face of drought and famine in the country succeeded in saving numerous lives.
However, Mr. Bowden said the situation remains fragile in Somalia, with millions of people in need of continued assistance.
Last July, the United Nations declared that famine exists in two regions of southern Somalia: southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle. Across the country, nearly half of the Somali population – 3.7 million people – were in crisis, of an estimated 2.8 million people are in the south.
Famine is declared when acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30 per cent; more than 2 people per 10,000 die per day; and people are not able to access food and other basic necessities.
For the past several months draught-displaced people from southern regions have been pouring into the capital where international relief agencies may have access to reach them. These needy people fled from the Al-shabaab-administered regions south of the country where the militants banned aid agencies from reaching them since early last year.
“The call for assistance in July received a tremendous response and we know that over the last year $1.3 billion was actually raised for Somalia… the majority of which has been spent.” – Mr. Bowden
He stressed that the $1.5 billion appeal, the highest ever for humanitarian work in Somalia, was to support ongoing relief work in the country last year and to fund programmes to enable those who lost their livelihoods and were displaced from their land to go back and restart their lives afresh.
He pointed out that last year’s assistance enabled relief organizations to reduce the number of people at risk of outright famine from 750,000 to 150,000 and prevented the spread of diarrhoeal illness and other infectious diseases through large-scale chlorination of water and increased health services.
“So, part of Somalia’s story is a success, but as ever in a place like Somalia success is limited.” – Mr. Bowden
He cited that four million Somalis remain in need of assistance on a regular basis, including food aid, health care and water and sanitation services.
Somalia has been without a stable government for 20 years now. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in January of 1991. Al-Shabab has gained control of southern Somalia and has been more successful than a weaker UN-backed government.
The drought has caused massive migrations to Kenya, Ethiopia, and north to the capital city of Mogadishu. The situation is not much better in these other countries. With populations doubling in the Horn of Africa over the past 30 or 40 years, the effects of this drought is much more devastating.