Somalia: Humanitarian Coordinator calls for more access and an end to fighting

18 Dec 2013

Dec 2013, Jowhar, Somalia: Humanitarian Coordinator, Philippe Lazzarini, meets with families displaced by violence in Jowhar, in Somalia's Middle Shabelle Region. An estimated 66,000 people have been affected by flooding, a situation compounded by the outbreak of inter-communal fighting. Credit: OCHA
Insecurity and lack of access continues to hamper aid efforts to reach thousands of families affected by floods and inter-communal fighting in Middle Shabelle.

UN agencies and their humanitarian partners continue to have limited access to thousands of families affected by seasonal floods and inter-communal fighting in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region.

“The flooding has affected some 66,000 people in 33 villages in Jowhar district alone,” said Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini who visited the region earlier this month. He added that although humanitarian organizations continue to provide assistance, much more needs to be done to help people recover and rebuild their lives.

The Shabelle River floods started in late August in and around the Middle Shabelle town of Jowhar as a result of rains in the Ethiopian highlands. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 8,000 hectres of farmland has been destroyed by the floods, affecting the lives of a vast majority of the people in flood-affected areas who are agro-pastoralists.

Farmlands affected, access cut-off

Mr. Lazzarini explained that longer-term assistance is needed to help farmers re-establish their livelihoods and help feed their communities. Many are now in need of seeds, fertilizer and tools so they can start planting once the floods subside.

The floods have also destroyed main roads cutting off Jowhar from neighboring towns, including the capital Mogadishu, affecting the movement of commercial merchandize to the market and limiting aid organizations’ access to people in need.

“Many communities have been isolated by the floods. We had to take a boat to reach Jowhar,” said Mr. Lazzarini.

Emergency allocation is made

“From our meetings with local authorities, local humanitarian partners and traditional leaders, it was very clear what people want – a solution to the perennial floods affecting many families every year,” continued Mr. Lazzarini. “It is critical that the two main canals on the River Shabelle are rehabilitated.”

Despite the challenges, aid organizations have ramped up their efforts in recent weeks and continue to reach as many people as possible with emergency supplies such as food, water and shelter. The local and diaspora Somali business communities have also joined the humanitarian effort to support flood-affected families and are providing hot meals for as many as700 people per day for the next four months.

Thousands of people have received shelter and many others have received medical treatments through mobile health clinics. A few days after Lazzarini’s visit, the OCHA-managed Common Humanitarian Fund allocated US$1.2 million to support emergency health activities and to improve access to clean water and sanitation in the area.

The fighting must end

The humanitarian situation in Jowhar was further compounded in early November by an outbreak of inter-communal fighting. Nearly 3,000 families fled the fighting and are still living in a congested settlement near the Jowhar air field.

Mr. Lazzarini met displaced families, including a mother of eight who had recently lost her husband, and is struggling to cope. She feared for the safety of her children and did not want to return to her village in case clan violence broke out again.

“The women and children I met in Jowhar told such heartbreaking stories. Many of them were victims of the clan conflict,” said Mr. Lazzarini. “The loss of life and displacement of the most vulnerable people, including women and children, is unacceptable. The fighting must end.”

Traditional elders in Jowhar have since confirmed that an agreement has been reached to resolve the current conflict. However the displaced families are still waiting for the situation in their villages to stabilize before returning to them.

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