Due to conflict and drought, almost three quarters of Somalia’s population was in crisis by mid-2011, making Somalia the world’s largest humanitarian emergency. On 20 July, famine was declared in two areas of southern Somalia. It spread to four other areas in the following months. The number of people affected almost doubled to 4 million within the first six months of 2011. An unprecedented increase in emergency humanitarian aid in the third quarter had a dramatic impact, as half a million people were lifted out of famine.
The main challenges in 2011 were as follows:
Inadequate funding in the first half of the year to address the rapidly deteriorating situation.
The level of coordination required to absorb a massive scale-up in assistance, including handling a rapid influx of new humanitarian partners outside the traditional OCHA framework.
An increasingly complex situation in southern Somalia as military interventions by neighbouring countries expanded.
Difficult access to vulnerable people in parts of southern Somalia, including famine-affected areas. This was due to ongoing conflict, and Al Shabaab’s refusal to work with key aid organizations and its ban of 16 humanitarian organizations on 28 November.
Getting reliable information on needs and response in difficult-to-access environments.
By the first half of 2011, the Somalia CAP was funded at a lower level than in any of the three previous years. In response to the low level of funding, OCHA facilitated the use of pooled funds to raise $45 million from the CHF and $15 million from CERF. These funds permitted the implementation of emergency projects at critical periods. For example, CERF funding targeted drought-affected communities in southern Somali in a fast-deteriorating situation, well before international media attention led to large-scale funding. When famine was declared, donors responded generously to the humanitarian appeal, either bilaterally to agencies or through the pooled-funding mechanisms. Activities financed by the pooled funding reached millions of Somalis in crisis. The CHF and CERF disbursed $138 million for 2011, representing 16 per cent of the total CAP funding for Somalia. The pooled funding was mainly used in southern Somalia for food security, including food assistance, agriculture, livelihoods and nutrition, and other life-saving activities (WASH, health and shelter).
An expanding number of humanitarian actors now operate in Somalia, particularly in Mogadishu. As a result, OCHA has broadened its base of partners. OCHA and the HC have worked with fast-emerging non-traditional donors, including the Gulf States, Turkey and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which have all become major players in humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. At least 30 new donors contributed to humanitarian funding in 2011, with roughly one third of the funds coming from non-traditional donors. OCHA will continue supporting engagement between new donors and clusters by providing forums for information sharing and coordination, while also strengthening partnerships with Turkish and Muslim NGOs.
OCHA had an important role in improving cluster coordination in Nairobi and Somalia. It ensured that relevant clusters had field focal points in all regions of Somalia. It also established inter-cluster working groups in Gedo and Mogadishu, in addition to the three existing working groups in Somaliland and Puntland. The aim is to improve the humanitarian community’s ability to plan and respond.
OCHA Somalia responded to growing information needs by upgrading its products in 2011. It introduced a weekly situation report from August, and maintained updated information on funding, response and the humanitarian situation on the OCHA Somalia website (http://ochaonline.un.org/somalia). The website’s importance and popularity were highlighted by a dramatic increase in the number of visitors in 2011 compared with 2012.
Access to vulnerable people will remain one of the most pressing challenges, including in areas where many humanitarian organizations have been banned. Related to this is the problem of monitoring activities and undertaking assessments in hard-to-access areas. OCHA will extend collaboration with new partners who can operate in such areas.
Despite many constraints, OCHA and its partners made a profound difference in southern Somalia in 2011 by providing forums for coordination and producing a flow of reliable information. OCHA’s priorities in 2012 will include strengthening information exchange and products, and establishing and reinforcing proper monitoring systems.