Assistance to Somalia must tackle development needs, UN coordinator says

13 July 2004

With insecurity still prevailing in parts of Somalia, emergency assistance to the country must be provided with a view to promoting long-term development, a senior United Nations official for the country said today.

Max Gaylard, the UN Resident Coordinator for Somalia, told reporters in New York that while there were areas of relative stability in the country, including Somaliland in the northwest, much of the territory remains extremely volatile.

The capital, Mogadishu, has functioning schools and factories, "but in the streets it's another story: too many young men with guns, too many militias, and too much potential conflict and tension," he said.

He described Somalia's social indicators on health and education as "abysmal," noting that only one-fifth of all primary school children aged 6 to 13 were in school, with even fewer attending at the secondary level. Just a "tiny fraction" of all Somalis go to college, he said.

Mr. Gaylard, who also serves as the Humanitarian Coordinator, said UN humanitarian activities are aimed at promoting development and rehabilitation in the strife-torn country. The UN had an advanced police training programme in Somaliland which will soon be expanded to Puntland with the aim of training officers who can someday "easily unite as one police force," he said.

Other achievements include the absence of polio virus over the past two years, he said, predicting that "in another six months or so, we might be in the very happy position of declaring Somalia to be another stage towards polio eradication."

Mr. Gaylard also stressed the need to address environmental challenges facing Somalia. Drought has devastated the lives of Somali nomads and farmers, who have lost the majority of their livestock. "Whether they will ever be able to go back to the land and be on their feet is doubtful," he said, adding that the UN is helping the Somalis to ensure that livestock are healthy enough for consumption and export.