Somalia and Yemen: Urgent action needed to prevent worsening crises

2 Jul 2014

26 July 2014, Doolow, Somalia: An irrigation canal is reinforced near the Kabasa displacement site, outside Doolow in southern Somalia. The work is supported by the World Food Programme. Credit: FAO/ Frank Nyakairu
OCHA’s John Ging and UNICEF’s Ted Chaiban say that action must be taken to arrest deteriorating humanitarian situations in two of the world’s most fragile contexts.

OCHA’s Operations Director John Ging says that urgent action is needed to prevent worsening crises in Somalia and Yemen.

Ging was speaking at a press briefing in New York, alongside the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Emergency Director Ted Chaiban. The two emergency directors travelled to Somalia and Yemen last week with their counterparts from eight other UN agencies and international NGOs.

Somalia is at a crossroads

In Somalia, a widespread food security crisis is set to deteriorate over the second half of the year. More than one million people are internally displaced and 875,000 people need urgent life-saving food assistance.

“Somalia is at a crossroads,” said UNICEF’s Chaiban. “Today, 50,000 children are severely malnourished, including many at risk of death within weeks if they do not get the treatment they need. We have a small but critical window to do what’s needed to prevent a repeat of 2011.”

“Failure to act decisively to address humanitarian needs will not only lead to another humanitarian crisis but will also undermine the peace and state-building gains of the last two years, jeopardizing this rare window for Somalia to graduate from failed state status,” said OCHA’s John Ging.

“All the signs we saw before 2011’s severe famine are here – reduced humanitarian access, insecurity, increasing food prices, delayed rains and rapidly worsening malnutrition among children. It is vital that we act now to avert another disaster.”

More than half of all Yemenis need humanitarian assistance

In Yemen more than half of the population – a total of 14.7 million people – need humanitarian assistance. Widespread acute food insecurity, ongoing instability and conflict and near absence of basic services make this one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, yet it is woefully underfunded, with only 33 per cent of identified needs met.

“In Yemen, the sheer numbers of children suffering from life-threatening forms of malnutrition are even greater due to chronic underdevelopment and persistent insecurity,” said Mr. Chaiban.

The country is also on the brink of economic collapse, and longer term fiscal and governance reforms, as well as significant investments in livelihoods, agriculture and basic service provision, are needed to prevent the crisis from worsening and to stem the instability which risks spilling over into the region.

Aid groups are responding, but funding is low

Mr. Ging said that humanitarian organizations in both Somalia and Yemen are doing all they can to support people in need, despite difficult security environments and despite the constraints placed on them by limited funding.

“We saw at first hand the excellent, life-saving work that our humanitarian partners are able to do when funding is available, putting their own lives in danger to reach those who need assistance most,” said Mr. Ging.

“I urge donors to help us build on the gains made in both countries. If we fail to act now set-backs are inevitable, which could have repercussions well beyond Somalia and Yemen.”

Mr. Ging and Mr. Chaiban travelled with the Emergency Directors of the World Food Programme, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the UN Refugee Agency, the UN Population Fund, the UN Development Programme, the International Organization for Migration and the International Rescue Committee. They met a range of senior officials in both countries, including the President and Prime Minister in Somalia and the Ministers for Health and Human Rights in Yemen.