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UN relief official urges aid to Somalia as its communities strive to rebuild

UN relief official urges aid to Somalia as its communities strive to rebuild

A senior United Nations relief official today called on the international community to support grassroots efforts in Somalia to rebuild the war-shattered and drought-stricken nation.

“At the level of communities, the reality of Somalia is very different from the image of what it was a few years ago,” Carolyn McAskie, the UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, told reporters in New York. “The image that a lot of people still have of Somalia is one of warlords and constant fighting, and when [Somalis] are not fighting, they’re starving because of the drought.”

Ms. McAskie, who just returned from a visit to Somalia, sought to counter this stereotype, while emphasizing that she was “not trying to pretend” that the country had suddenly transformed itself. “The message that we want to get out is that Somalia is starting to build itself up from the grassroots,” she said, adding that donors should realize “the time is now right for [the kind of] investments in grassroots development in Somalia that we always talk about when we talk about development investment as peacebuilding.”

Ms. McAskie also warned that the international community’s emphasis on the political process in Somalia posed “the very serious risk of putting in place a political structure that has nothing to anchor itself in.”

The UN was preparing to introduce a country-wide curriculum for national primary schools, she noted. “The ideal would be to have the funding to help communities rebuild the schools, hire teachers and introduce the curriculum across the board.” In addition, UN agencies were working to open health clinics and conduct immunization campaigns. Since Somalia was turning the corner, she said, “it is possible to do a real investment in the future of a country.”

“Yes the drought is still there, but the stability is [also] there,” said the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator. “On the ground, the situation is such that we could be making reasonable – cautious, but reasonable – investments in the stability of Somalia.”