Somalia still under threat of famine, warns top UN official

5 Sep 2017

Somalia still under threat of famine, warns top UN official

Mogadishu - The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, has commended international donors for their collective efforts in preventing famine in the Horn of Africa country but warned that the threat is not yet completely overcome.

Speaking at last week’s launch of a flagship food security and nutrition assessment in Somalia, Mr. de Clercq appealed to the international community to maintain the current efforts to avert a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

“What we are looking at is still a very serious humanitarian situation in this country. Although we had a very good humanitarian response, we need to continue this response at a pace of about $100 million per month,” the Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia said. Noting that although it was “a lot of money,” Mr. de Clercq said donors need to contribute to avert the risk of famine in some isolated areas and also improve the health conditions of the population.

He said the response is urgent because Somalia continues to experience a significant outbreak of both Acute Watery Diarrhea and measles.

The newly launched report was produced by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and comes at a time when Somalia is undergoing an intense drought as a result of consecutive seasons of poor rainfall. It is also one of four countries the UN has said are facing the threat of famine this year. The others are Yemen, South Sudan and Nigeria.

The FAO Representative in Somalia, Daniele Donati, also praised the donor community for their timely response to the drought ravaging the country.

“Thanks to FSNAU, life-saving assistance was provided in a timely manner and saved millions of lives with a combination of food assistance, cash-based interventions, livelihood support and a variety of other life-saving relief. And that’s how, collectively, we were able to avert famine in the first half of 2017”, Mr. Donati added.

The FAO Representative called for sustained humanitarian assistance in order to restore livelihoods and make lasting improvements to food security.

The FSNAU Chief Technical Advisor, Daniel Molla, echoed Mr. Donati’s sentiments, warning that the climate forecast showed that the country would continue to experience reduced rainfall this year.

“The Gu (April-June rainy season) crop harvest is estimated to be 37 percent lower than average and in the north-west where the conditions were worse, the Gu Karan (July-September rains) harvest is 87 percent lower than average”, Molla said, adding that the situation is likely to be exacerbated by the forthcoming Deyr (October to November rainy season) climate forecast which indicates average to below average condition, leaving pastoral households in difficulties.

The FSNAU assessment shows a decrease in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance from 6.7 million to 6.2 million. However, the harvest is lower due to poor rains, together with continued restrictions on access to food. As a result, food prices are expected to remain high through the initial months of  2018.

Somalia faced a debilitating drought in early 2017, leading to an appeal for international aid that raised $900 million earlier this year. At the time of the appeal 6.2 million Somalis were in need of food assistance, while 1.1 million had been displaced by the drought.