Over 1.7 million people have been reached with food security response activities in Somalia as part of the ongoing effort to avert a famine in the country and the drought response still needs to be scaled up to meet the increasing needs, the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Vincent Lelei told a press briefing in the Somali capital today.
Mr. Lelei noted that the need to provide humanitarian assistance to the millions of people affected by the drought crisis continues to outpace response efforts.
“Five months into 2017, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate and the risk of famine is still persisting. This is of immediate concern to all of us, whether it is the Government of Somalia, the people of Somalia, NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), the UN, everybody,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Federal Government of Somalia and UN agencies issued an appeal for $825 million dollars to fund an operational plan to avert famine in Somalia during the first six months of 2017. To date, $560 million in donations have been made available or pledged.
The severity of the current drought has displaced large numbers of people living in rural areas, and one of every two Somalis faces varying degrees of food insecurity.
“More than half of the population, 6.2 million people, continue to need humanitarian assistance and already more than 600,000 of these people have uprooted themselves out of their homes because they need assistance in terms of food, water and health services,” Mr. Lelei noted.
The crisis in the country has been exacerbated by diseases such as acute watery diarrhea (AWD)/cholera and measles. More than 28,000 AWD/cholera cases have been reported in 2017, including over 540 related deaths.
More than 5,600 measles cases have been reported nationwide, the outbreak is spreading quickly and the numbers are expected to increase. Measles is a big killer during times of drought because many children are malnourished.
Mr. Lelei detailed a series of life-saving interventions that have been supported by the Federal Government of Somalia, the UN, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, NGOs, the private sector and Somalis living at home and abroad.
Nutrition services have reached 332,000 people, including 70,000 children. He noted that 225 sites have been established for the medical treatment of children. Nearly eight million livestock animals have also been treated for effects of the drought as part of an initiative that will encompass 20 million livestock animals in the next three months. This is a vital aspect of the drought response effort since large numbers of pastoralists are dependent on their domesticated animals for their livelihood.
Mr. Lelei stated that most of the more than 1.7 million people who have been reached with food security response activities thus far are concentrated in the regions of Bakool, Bay, Galgaduud, Hiiran and Lower and Middle Shabelle. “This number has gone up very quickly from 1.1 million earlier in the year,” he observed.
He called for closer cooperation among the Federal government, humanitarian agencies, people in the diaspora, the private sector and development partners.
In its latest drought response report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs presents a grim outlook for humanitarian conditions in the short term.
“The projections for the coming six months are not encouraging, with continued deterioration foreseen for the coming three months till end of June, and only a slight improvement during the following three months from July through September,” the report says.
The document stated that drought-related displacements are continuing to rise at an almost exponential rate, with the cities of Baidoa and Mogadishu receiving the largest number of internally displaced persons.