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Somalia: Humanitarian situation must be addressed

Humanitarian situation in Somalia must be addressed now, UN coordinator says

The humanitarian situation in Somalia, where 2.1 million people are totally dependant on international aid, must be addressed right now, not only because of the severe drought but also because of recent progress on the political front, the United Nations coordinator for the country said today.

“It's not business as usual,” Christian Balslev-Olesen, Acting Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, told correspondents at UN Headquarters, recognizing an expectation of mayhem in the in the Horn of Africa country, which has been torn by factional fighting ever since the collapse of President Muhammad Siad Barre's regime 15 years ago.

“Somalia is facing a drought, an emergency situation – the most severe in a decade – and this is coming on top of a situation where you already have all the most difficult indicators for human development,” he said.

That situation puts recent political progress in danger, he said, pointing out that for the past month and half there has been a parliament inside the country for the first time.

“The two elements – the political peace process and the humanitarian situation – of course do present two different momentums. But they are interlinked,” he said.

The 2.1 million people dependent on aid represent 25 per cent of the population, he said, and include 400,000 internally displaced persons, many of whom are at risk of dying of malnutrition if the crisis is not addressed.

Mr. Balslev-Olesen acknowledged that humanitarian aid in Somalia might be more difficult to provide than anywhere else in the world. “We are faced with a situation where it is difficult to have access to the communities on a daily basis – we have threats, we have piracy, we have abductions, we have roadblocks,” he said.

However, because of the risks and opportunities, those challenges must be met, he said, and the United Nations is issuing an appeal to donors for $326 million, which includes the cost of all interventions in Somalia during the crisis.

Long-range weather forecasters have been warning for the past months that the seasonal April rains are also expected to fail this year across the Horn of Africa, portending worse humanitarian conditions to come in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya as well as Somalia.

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