Somalia: Extreme concern over the deteriorating drought situation

30 Jun 2011

This family in Somalia has lost all their livestock to the drought. As the situation deteriorates, an estimated 2.5 million people are in need of aid. Credit: SCDO
The situation in Somalia is rapidly deteriorating. Difficulties with access and lack of funding present major challenges for the humanitarian community.

The situation in Somalia is now rapidly deteriorating, according to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) for Somalia Mark Bowden, who gave a press conference in New York on 29 June. Calling on the international community to take action now, HC Bowden stressed that “If we are not able to respond rapidly and effectively to the situation in Somalia, there will be many more lives lost to malnutrition.”

The OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin #25 shows that the number of people in need of emergency humanitarian assistance has reached 2.5 million due to the worst drought in 60 years. Currently the Horn of Africa is experiencing the highest rate of malnutrition. Some 30 per cent of children are suffering from Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM). HC Bowden said that recent reports from parts of Somalia suggest that the rate is still increasing.

Another critical indicator of the level of distress facing this area is the increase in movement to refugee camps and the condition of people arriving in those camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. In her interview with Minnesota Public Radio yesterday, ERC Valerie Amos noted that the situation is particularly difficult for Kenya. Kenya has one of the largest refugee camps in the world, but the number of people now housed in the Dadaab camp is more than three times the amount it was built to accommodate.

“Over the years we have been trying to help countries become much more resilient in terms of the cyclical droughts that happen. But the lack of rains this year has made the situation much worse,” said ERC Amos.

The humanitarian community is extremely concerned by the situation. HC Bowden explained that one of the key problems facing humanitarian partners is that the epicentre of the crisis is in south Somalia, an area that is held by rebel group Al-Shabaab. “One of the things we are trying to do now is to make sure that they (Al-Shabaab) let us get to the people who need help. And that is an ongoing negotiation,” said ERC Amos in her interview.

Another challenge is the inadequate resources humanitarian communities have to deal with the problem. “Resources are woefully inadequate. We have an appeal that is at the moment only 40 per cent met. Some of the key sectors that are needed to protect and save the lives of people in Somalia are not being addressed at all. So we find ourselves as the humanitarian community in a position that we want and are able to do more but just don’t have the resources with which to do it,” said HC Bowden.