UN says about half of Somalia’s population will need humanitarian assistance this year, with 8.3 million affected by the drought.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for “massive international support” for Somalia, which is facing the worst drought in decades.
During a joint news briefing with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on his visit to the country, Guterres told reporters in the capital Mogadishu on Tuesday that he was in Somalia “to ring the alarm” on the country’s need for significant international support.
Five successive failed rainy seasons in parts of Somalia, as well as Kenya and Ethiopia, have led to the worst drought in four decades, wiping out livestock and crops and forcing at least 1.7 million people from their homes in search of food and water.
While famine thresholds have not been reached in Somalia, the UN has said about half its population will need humanitarian assistance this year, with 8.3 million affected by the drought.
Adding to the woes, seasonal rains in March led to flooding that killed 21 people and displaced more than 100,000, according to the UN, which warned that the rains were unlikely to be enough to improve the food security outlook for many.
President Mohamud said the visit assures that “the UN is fully committed to supporting our plans for state-building and stabilising the country”.
“We are confident that the Somali people will be able to overcome the problems and challenges they are still facing through the completion of the liberation of the country and reconciliation,” he added.
The UN chief added that Somalia is dealing with humanitarian difficulties while also combating a serious “terrorism” threat. The country has faced insecurity as it battles thousands of fighters from al-Qaeda’s East Africa affiliate, al-Shabab.
Guterres visited a camp for internally displaced people in Baidoa, in southwest Somalia.
“This combination of terrorism and drought, largely caused by climate change, creates a perfect storm for the people of Somalia and requires massive support from the international community,” Guterres said during his visit to the camp.
The UN has launched a $2.6bn call for humanitarian assistance, but Guterres said the appeal was only 15 percent funded.
“The international community has been absent-minded in relation to the drama of the people of Somalia,” Guterres said.
In 2011, Somalia was hit by a famine that killed 260,000 people, more than half of them children under six, partly because the international community failed to act fast enough, according to the UN.
A report by the UN and the Somali government released in March said that drought might have led to 43,000 “excess deaths” last year, with children under the age of five accounting for half the victims.
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