Next year is ‘make or break’ for Somalia, UN relief official warns

3 December 2008
UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden,

Somalia’s population faces total destitution next year without more effective aid, a United Nations humanitarian official cautioned today, as the many problems in the Horn of Africa country are exacerbated by extremely difficult political and security conditions.

“The crisis in Somalia is a prolonged crisis, a crisis that’s gone on for 17 years,” Mark Bowden, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the country, told reporters in New York.

He said that the crisis is at a difficult stage, with the population reeling from three years of drought, noting that the coming year is a “make or break” one for Somalia.

Yesterday, the UN launched an appeal for some $918 million for some 200 projects from 14 UN agencies and 71 international and national non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

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.

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.

Over 1 million people in the country have been uprooted by violence, and thousands of people are displaced every week.

“The good news of it is that in the last year, we’ve managed to keep relief operations going at a very high level,” Mr. Bowden said, with food assistance having reached 3.2 million people and more feeding centres having been opened.

Yesterday, the Security Council called on all countries and regional organizations with the necessary capacity to deploy naval ships and military aircraft off the Somali coast to fight rampant piracy that is impeding UN efforts to feed millions of hungry civilians in the strife-torn country.

In a related development, the UN’s independent expert on the human rights situation in Somalia wrapped up a visit to the region yesterday.

Independent Expert Shamsul Bari was unable to visit Somalia due to security constraints, but he visited neighbouring countries – Djibouti, Yemen and Kenya – to get a sense of the rights situation in the country.

In Djibouti, he held talks with Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, Vice Premier Abdi Salam and many other members of the country’s Transitional Federal Government and Parliament, as well as with members of the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS).

In his meeting with Mr. Hussein, the expert reiterated his concerns about the deteriorating rights conditions in Somalia, noting in particular the stoning to death of a 13-year-old girl in Kismayo in October and the assassination of women rights defenders, UN staff and journalists.

For his part, the Prime Minister condemned the stoning case and expressed his commitment to bolster the human rights situation.

In Kenya, Mr. Bari visited the Dabab refugee camp, while in Yemen, he met with Somali officials and new refugee arrivals.

The expert will make specific recommendations to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council next March.


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.