The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has called for “huge international assistance” for Somalia, which is suffering from the worst drought in decades.
At a joint news conference with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on his visit to Somalia, Guterres told reporters in Mogadishu on Tuesday that he was there “to sound the alarm” about the country’s need for considerable international assistance.
Five consecutive failed rainy seasons in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia have resulted in the worst drought in four decades, destroying cattle and crops and causing at least 1.7 million people to flee their homes in search of food and water.
While famine thresholds have not been reached in Somalia, the UN estimates that over half of the country’s population would require humanitarian assistance this year, with 8.3 million people affected by the drought.
To make matters worse, seasonal rains in March caused flooding, killing 21 people and displacing over 100,000, according to the UN, which cautioned that the rains were unlikely to improve the food security situation for many.
President Mohamud stated that the visit ensures that “the UN is completely committed to assisting our goals for state-building and country stabilization.”
“We are optimistic that the Somali people will be able to overcome the problems and obstacles they are still facing as the country’s liberation and reconciliation are completed,” he added.
The UN chief stressed that Somalia is coping with humanitarian challenges as well as a serious “terrorism” danger. The country has been besieged by thousands of fighters from al-East Qaeda’s African affiliate, al-Shabab.
Guterres paid a visit to a camp for internally displaced people in Baidoa, Somalia’s southwest.
“This combination of terrorism and drought, which is partly the result of climate change, produces a perfect storm for the people of Somalia and necessitates substantial international support,” Guterres said during his visit to the camp.
The UN has launched a $2.6 billion appeal for humanitarian assistance, but Guterres claims it is barely 15% financed.
“The international community has been oblivious to the drama of the Somali people,” Guterres remarked.
According to the UN, a famine struck Somalia in 2011, killing 260,000 people, more than half of them were children under the age of six, in part because the international community failed to intervene quickly enough.
According to a report released in March by the UN and the Somali government, drought may have resulted in 43,000 “excess deaths” last year, with children under the age of five accounting for half of the victims.