Emergency Relief Coordinator concludes "heartbreaking" trip to Horn of Africa

15 August, 2011
ERC Valerie Amos visited Kenya and Somalia on a three-day mission from 12 – 14 August to raise awareness for the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world.  Credit:  OCHA
ERC Valerie Amos visited Kenya and Somalia on a three-day mission from 12 – 14 August to raise awareness for the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world. Credit: OCHA

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), Valerie Amos today completed a three-day trip to Kenya and Somalia to draw international attention to the world's most serious food crisis.

Somalia is the worst affected country, with an estimated 3.2 million people to be on the brink of starvation, but people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti are also suffering. In total 12.4 million people across the Horn of Africa face severe food shortages and urgently require assistance.

During her mission, ERC Amos met with humanitarian organizations and Government officials in Kenya and Somalia to find out more about the emergency response. “I want to make sure everyone understands the depth of this crisis,” she said.
 
Need for improved safety in Somalia
 
Traveling to the Somali capital Mogadishu on 13 August, Ms. Amos visited Banadir Hospital, one of only four places in the city where children with acute malnutrition can be treated. “It's heartbreaking. The children are so weak they can't lift their heads, while their mothers are in despair,” she said.
 
“We can save the lives of these children if we can treat them early enough, but we also need to get aid to areas outside Mogadishu where most of the people in desperate need are,” she added.
 
Famine has already been declared in five areas of southern Somalia and the situation is likely to deteriorate. There are currently 390,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia. That number is expected to double in the next 12 months.
 
In Somalia ERC Amos met with representatives of the Transitional Federal Government and stressed the need for more safety and security for residents in Mogadishu. In the last two months the population of the capital has swollen with the arrival of more than 100,000 people from famine-stricken areas.
 
Relief agencies highlighted to Ms Amos the main challenges of working in Somalia, including security, the protection of displaced people, and coordinating the many humanitarian organizations at work.
 
The world’s biggest refugee camp
 
On the final day of her mission, Ms. Amos visited Dadaab in northern Kenya. With a population of over 400,000 registered people, mainly from Somalia, Dadaab is the world's largest refugee camp and growing: over 70,000 new refugees have arrived in the last two months.
 
“We need to do more to help people in Somalia,” Ms. Amos said after being told by one Somali refugee woman that she had lost all four of her children on the journey to Dadaab. “No one should have to endure such suffering,” she added.
 
Ms. Amos commended the Kenyan Government and its people for welcoming Somali refugees at a time when Kenya itself was facing severe drought conditions in many parts of the country. The extension of Dadaab camp will ease the current overcrowding and enable the UN and partner organizations to provide improved water and sanitations facilities, health services and schooling.
 
“We have to do all we can to help people now, but we must also work together to build the long-term resilience of communities that are now facing drought conditions every two years rather than every 10 years, as was the case in the past,” Ms. Amos said.
 
Donors have committed more than US$1 billion to the response so far, but $1.4 billion is still urgently needed to scale up assistance and save lives in the Horn of Africa.

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