Somalia: UN’s Emergency Fund provides a life-line, for now

19 August, 2014
Internally displaced people (IDP) wait patiently at a food distribution center in Afgoye, Somalia. The 1.1 million people in  IDP settlements across Somalia need urgent health, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene support. CREDIT: AU UN IST PHOTO/TOBIN JONES
Internally displaced people (IDP) wait patiently at a food distribution center in Afgoye, Somalia. The 1.1 million people in IDP settlements across Somalia need urgent health, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene support. CREDIT: AU UN IST PHOTO/TOBIN JONES

A US$20 million boost from the UN’s Central Emergency Fund (CERF) will help in providing life-saving aid in Somalia, but it won’t be enough to halt a deepening crisis, aid agencies warn.

“These badly needed funds are critical to our humanitarian response and will go a long way towards addressing some of the most critical needs”, said Foroogh Foyouzat, Acting Representative for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Somalia. “Action is needed now and without further support, Somalia risks sliding back into crisis.”

Somalia, beset by a severe shortfall in emergency funding, is home to one of the world’s largest and most complex emergencies. According to the UN, almost 3 million people there are in need of humanitarian assistance such as food, health and nutrition support.

At the precipice

Humanitarian partners warn that the country is at the precipice of another emergency – only three years after a devastating famine that left an estimated 258,000 people dead, many of them women and children under five.

Abdi Maalim Hassan, a Water Sanitation Hygiene expert with the international NGO Oxfam in Somalia said “Renewed outbreaks of fighting, as well as the shortage of water, pasture and a low harvest, means we are seeing high malnutrition levels and many people being displaced.”

The 1.1 million people in internally displaced people settlements scattered across the country are particularly vulnerable and need urgent health, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene support.

In the capital, Mogadishu, the UN warned in July that the food crisis was expected to transition into an "emergency phase” with some 203,000 children reportedly malnourished, and 50,000 severely malnourished.

Laurent Bukera, Somalia Country Director for the World Food Programme (WFP), said “We are concerned that food security in Somalia is expected to worsen over the next several months, in large part because of poor rains, conflict and rising food prices.”

He noted that WFP had scaled up to meet growing needs, but funding shortages meant the organization risked running short of vital supplies by September, “leaving us with no other alternative than reducing food assistance to most vulnerable, including IDPs and malnourished children.”

Act Now

“The [CERF] allocation will provide much needed emergency assistance to people facing immense challenges in Somalia,” said Phillipe Lazarrini, the UN Humanitarian Chief for Somalia. He warned donors to act now “to alleviate the suffering of the Somalia people, by providing crucial resources to enable humanitarian workers respond now, when needs are greatest.”

Just 30 per cent of the aid appeal for Somalia has been funded. Close to $655 million is still needed to provide humanitarian assistance until the end of 2014.

Other than funding, humanitarian access remains dangerous and difficult making it hard for aid workers to reach more than the 875,000 people in need of urgent life-saving food assistance.

Two poorly-funded regions

The $20 million for Somalia is the largest allocation to a single country of the total $75 million released from CERF to fund life-saving relief operations in two of the world’s most underfunded emergencies: the West African Sahel and the Horn of Africa. “[These are] regions that were front-page news just two years ago, and could fall back into crisis if we don’t help now,” the Emergency Relief Coordinator Valarie Amos, said in a statement.

CERF pools donors’ contributions into a single fund so that money is available as soon as needs arise. Globally, the fund allocated almost $482 million in 2013. Out of this, $175 million went towards relief efforts in chronically underfunded crises.

Since 2006, CERF has allocated more than $3.4 billion for humanitarian agencies operating in 88 countries and territories.