Concerted international efforts needed to avert crisis in Somalia and Yemen, say UN Emergency Directors [EN/AR]

(New York, 2 July 2014): John Ging, Operations Director for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and Ted Chaiban, Emergency Director of UNICEF, told media after a week-long mission to Somalia and Yemen that urgent action is needed to prevent worsening in crises in both of these fragile contexts, addressing both immediate needs and long term drivers of instability.

“Somalia is at a crossroads. Today, 50,000 children are severely malnourished, including many at risk of death within weeks if they do not get the treatment they need. We have a small but critical window to do what’s needed to prevent a repeat of 2011,” said UNICEF Emergency Director Ted Chaiban. “In Yemen, the sheer numbers of children suffering from life-threatening or debilitating forms of malnutrition are even greater due to chronic underdevelopment and persistent insecurity. In both Somalia and Yemen, the humanitarian community is working courageously on two tracks – immediate response, and resilience building – yet funding in both countries is at dangerously low levels.”

In Yemen more than half of the population – a total of 14.7 million people – need humanitarian assistance. Widespread acute food insecurity, ongoing instability and conflict and near absence of basic services make this one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, yet it is woefully underfunded, with only 33% of identified needs met. The country is also on the brink of economic collapse, and longer term fiscal and governance reforms, as well as significant investments in livelihoods, agriculture and basic service provision, are needed to prevent the crisis from worsening and to stem the instability which risks spilling over into the region.

In Somalia, the widespread food security crisis is set to deteriorate over the second half of the year. More than one million people are internally displaced and 875,000 people need urgent life-saving food assistance.

“Failure to act decisively to address humanitarian needs will not only lead to another humanitarian crisis but will also undermine the peace and state-building gains of the last two years, jeopardizing this rare window for Somalia to graduate from failed state status,” said John Ging. “All the signs we saw before 2011’s severe famine are here – reduced humanitarian access, insecurity, increasing food prices, delayed rains and rapidly worsening malnutrition among children. It is vital that we act now to avert another disaster.”

The Emergency Directors of OCHA, UNICEF, WFP, FAO, ICVA-IRC, IOM, IMC, WHO, UNHCR, UNFPA and UNDP met a range of senior officials in both countries, including the President and Prime Minister in Somalia and the Ministers for Health and Human Rights in Yemen.

“Despite the extremely challenging conditions in both Somalia and Yemen we saw at first hand the excellent, life-saving work that our humanitarian partners are able to do when funding is available, putting their own lives in danger to reach those who need assistance most,” stressed Mr. Ging. “I urge donors to help us build on the gains made in both countries. If we fail to act now set-backs are inevitable, which could have repercussions well beyond Somalia and Yemen.”

For further information, please contact: Amanda Pitt, OCHA New York, +1 212 963 4129, +1 917 442 1810, pitta@un.org Najwa Mekki, UNICEF New York, +1-212-326-7448, +1 917-209-1804, nmekki@unicef.org

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