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UN Drought Envoy Wraps Up Horn of Africa Tour

UN Drought Relief Envoy Wraps Up Horn of Africa Tour on Optimistic Note

New York, May 2 2006 4:00PM

The top United Nations relief official for the Horn of Africa wrapped up a five-nation tour of the drought-stricken region on an optimistic note today, stressing government commitments to make headway on a scourge that has directly threatened the lives of over 8 million people and placed more than 15 million at risk.

“In Eritrea, the Government opened the door for renewed dialogue with the humanitarian community on issues that look to the future and with a clear agenda,” Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa Kjell Magne Bondevik said.

“In Djibouti, the government is working towards becoming self-reliant. I urged them to further open up its private sector and work on more foreign investment potential. Ethiopia and Kenya both emphasized the need for more attention to development assistance in pastoral areas,” he added.

As to the fifth country on his tour, faction-torn Somalia, which has lacked a functioning central government ever since the collapse of President Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime 15 years ago, he stressed the importance of making access and security a priority to ensure the timely delivery of humanitarian aid.

“Taking into account the security costs involved in establishing a presence inside Somalia, it is critical that the donor community provides flexible funding and invests in the operational capacity of NGOs (non-governmental organizations),” he said.

Mr. Bondevik, a former Norwegian Prime Minister appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the UN post in February, made several visits to the field, where he saw first-hand the impact of recurrent drought, especially on pastoralists. He said he plans to return to the region later this year to assess progress both in the humanitarian response and long-term development.

In the meantime he will visit donor capitals with the aim of encouraging them to contribute more, especially for the long-term, to meet critical needs. In early April, the UN launched a regional appeal requesting $443 million but to date only $95 million has been committed.

“Given the magnitude of livestock losses sustained during this crisis, full recovery will be a long process that will take years or even decades,” Mr. Bondevik said.

“Governments must also prioritize long-term development solutions that reduce vulnerability to drought,” he added, calling for “desperately needed” improvements in basic services like food, water, heath facilities, schools, roads and other infrastructure.


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