A senior United Nations (UN) official has cautioned that the harsh drought conditions currently afflicting much of Somalia are likely to trigger a major humanitarian crisis if immediate action is not taken to contain the situation.
During a visit to Baidoa, the interim capital of South West State, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, George Conway, issued the warning while he was assessing the effects of the prolonged drought on vulnerable populations in the area and visiting projects funded by the Somalia Humanitarian Fund (SHF).
“A major challenge right now is the underfunding of the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, currently only 19 percent funded for the year, which is very worrying given the deteriorating humanitarian situation due to protracted drought, armed conflict, continued displacement and spike in evictions,” said Mr. Conway, who is also the Acting Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Somalia and the UN Resident Coordinator.
Mr. Conway said the situation required enhanced advocacy with donors to bring the humanitarian response up to scale, “so we don’t find ourselves in Somalia in a situation where people are moving increasingly into crisis and potentially over the edge into more disastrous conditions.”
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Somalia is facing yet another severe drought due to the combined impact of the poor 2019 Gu’ (April-June) rains, which followed poor 2018 Deyr (October-December) rains, and harsh weather conditions during the dry Jilaal (January-March) season. The number of acutely food insecure people that will require immediate food assistance is expected to reach 2.2 million by July.
Mr. Conway was accompanied by Monika Agnete Pollan Thowsen, senior advisor on humanitarian affairs at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Svein Olav Svoldal, first secretary at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi, and Matija Kovac, the SHF Manager..
The day-long trip included a visit to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) settlements in Baidoa where life-saving assistance is provided by the SHF, of which Norway is one of the donors.
The visiting delegation also held discussions on the unfolding humanitarian crisis with the President of South West State, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed “Laftagareen,” and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies that provide assistance to the IDPs..
“Today we received a delegation that came to assess the humanitarian situation in South West, particularly in Baidoa. We discussed the pressing challenges – mainly the delayed rains, how to scale up humanitarian response, and how to mobilize resources to tackle the drought affecting our people,” President Laftagareen said.
In 2017, a drought spanning over four consecutive below average rainy seasons left about 6.2 million people in need of emergency aid such as food, water and shelter, prompting a massive scale up of humanitarian operations to prevent the country sliding into famine, which was averted also due to decisive support received from international donors.
Norway has historically been among the top supporters of humanitarian action in Somalia and is an important donor of the SHF. “We are on a monitoring mission to Baidoa together with the Humanitarian Coordinator to see the impact of programs we fund trough the SHF. We also have partnership with the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children. The mission provided us with a unique opportunity to interact with the IDP communities and to learn about the current challenges faced by the displaced population,” observed Ms. Thowsen.
Noorta Abdi Osman was displaced by the drought from the settlement of Hawaal Barbaar, which is situated 30 kilometres outside of Baidoa. She lamented the shortage of water and the mounting humanitarian needs at the Hawlwadaag camp where she is now living.
“Our challenges have doubled since coming here — shortage of water, no food to eat, and no end in sight to the drought. We seek assistance from the international community and the South West administration,” Ms. Osman said.
Fadumo Ali Mohamed, a 45-year-old mother who was also displaced by the prolonged drought in the Bakool region of South West State, mentioned that the rehabilitation of the borehole in the Hanaano camp, which was implemented by Save the Children and funded through the SHF, helped alleviate their suffering.
The delegation visited a school project at the Hawlwadaag camp, also funded by the SHF and implemented by a local partner, Rural Education and Agricultural Development Organization – READO, in order to witness the efforts to provide education for displaced children.
Source: UNSOM website