The humanitarian crisis in Somalia has deteriorated to a point where nearly half of the Horn of Africa nation’s population requires assistance, a senior United Nations aid official warned today, calling on donors to urgently fund an appeal for more than $900 million for relief operations.
“What we are looking at today is a situation in which nearly half the population is in crisis or need of assistance. There is no doubt it has reached an undeniable level of immensity,” said UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden.
Speaking in Nairobi, Kenya, at the launch of the 2009 Humanitarian Appeal for Somalia, Mr. Bowden said that throughout this year humanitarian operations have struggled to address the widening crisis and support the growing number of vulnerable people in the country.
The appeal is seeking some $918 million for some 200 projects from 14 UN agencies and 71 international and national non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It is part of the global Consolidated Appeal (CAP) launched in Geneva on 19 November for some $7 billion to meet the most pressing needs of 30 million people in crisis around the world.
Somalia, which has not had a functioning national government since 1991, has been plagued by fighting and humanitarian suffering for decades. Continuing instability, coupled with drought, high food prices and the collapse of the local currency have only worsened the dire humanitarian situation in recent months.
The UN estimates that some 3.2 million people, or 40 per cent of the population, are in need of assistance. In addition, around one in six children under the age of five in southern and central Somalia is currently acutely malnourished.
Also addressing today’s launch, the Regional Director for East and Southern Africa of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called on the international community to continue its assistance to the Somali people.
“Somalis should not be doubly punished for the conflict within their country. In spite of the security situation, we must provide assistance,” said Per Engebak. “And while it is difficult, it is not impossible to respond effectively to the humanitarian situation.”
The funds being sought are critical if UN agencies and their humanitarian partners are to effectively address an annual caseload of 300,000 acutely malnourished children, to reach the 65 per cent of children who are not immunized against preventable diseases, and to provide safe schools, he added.
The 2008 humanitarian appeal for Somalia for $662 million is 70 per cent funded as of today.