Somalia: We cannot let the Somali people down, says humanitarian chief

23 February, 2012
A Somali boy at one of the newly erected IDP settlements in Mogadishu. Credit: AU/UN IST/Price
A Somali boy at one of the newly erected IDP settlements in Mogadishu. Credit: AU/UN IST/Price

Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos called for a coherent approach to addressing the humanitarian, development and political challenges in Somalia today at the London Conference.

Co-chairing a humanitarian event at the conference, Ms. Amos emphasized the importance of dealing with the immediate needs of millions of Somalis and the longer-term development issues critical to helping the country build resilience.   

“As we deal with the immediate humanitarian needs of the people, we must also ensure longer-term sustainability in the country,” she said. “We cannot let the Somali people down.”

The conference, chaired by the British Government, brought together senior officials from more than 40 countries and international organizations. The participants included representatives from Somalia, UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. They adopted a communiqué that contains conclusions linking relief with longer-term recovery and resilience.

“Somalis have shown astounding resilience in the face of extreme hardship. They are ready to show the world they can rebuild their lives and their country with our support,” said Mr. Ban.

As well as providing life-saving aid, humanitarian workers are prioritizing ways to restore people’s livelihoods, including support for agricultural development, so that families are better able to cope and will become less dependent on aid.

Although the famine is over in Somalia, the humanitarian situation remains fragile; roughly one third of the Somali population needs life-saving aid, including food, water and health care. Diseases and high child-mortality rates persist, and more than 320,000 children are acutely malnourished.

The UN and aid agencies have asked for US$1.5 billion to provide basic aid and fund projects to help Somalis rebuild their lives in 2012. Over $480 million will go towards agricultural- and livelihood-support projects, including rebuilding roads and canals, providing cash-for-work schemes, and distributing drought-resistant seeds and fertilizers to farmers. However, the appeal is only 9 per cent funded.

“We have no more time to ‘wait and see’. To any donors still wavering, I say: get off the fence. Help prevent another famine and offer new hope to Somalia,” said Mr. Ban.