Communiqué: Roundtable on the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 25 May 2015


Roundtable on the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region

Nairobi, 22 May 2015

United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators or their representatives from 9 countries in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region (Burundi, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania), Regional Directors from humanitarian organizations including from Oxfam, IRC, NRC, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, DRC, OCHA, WFP, UNICEF, FAO, IOM, IFRC, UNHCR and ISDR; the Office for the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for the Great Lakes; the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank, met in Nairobi on 22 May 2015 to discuss current and projected humanitarian risks to a region already under stress. These risks could potentially destabilize the region and add substantial pressure to Government responses and humanitarian programs already under acute stress. They could also have broader continental and global implications.

Despite economic growth and progress towards meeting key Millennium Development Goals, the region is home to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, who have limited capacity to cope with new and recurrent cycles of conflict, climatic shocks as well as new and emerging threats. The risk of escalating violence in Burundi which has already displaced more than 112,000 people to neighboring states; the armed conflict in Yemen (a key transit and destination country for increasingly desperate migrants from the Horn of Africa region), and a rapid intensification of the conflict in South Sudan and the potential for an economic collapse, are of particular concern.

Conflict also continues unabated in parts of Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and since the beginning of the year there has been a sharp increase in inter-communal conflict in the Rift Valley in Kenya. In addition, the rise of violent extremism inside and beyond Somalia, poses a real threat to the region, and beyond. Overall, about 80 per cent of humanitarian work now takes place in complex man-made conflict settings, posing a formidable challenge both in terms of public support for humanitarian assistance and protection of civilians where political processes have failed. There are also difficulties in delivering such assistance even when it can be mobilized.

Further, the fight against extremism has resulted in the introduction of measures which may negatively affect humanitarian operations. Banks in a number of countries have closed the accounts of organizations that facilitate remittance flows which are a key lifeline to many in the region, particularly in Somalia. We are also deeply concerned about legislation that restricts civil society space and increasing attacks on humanitarian workers.

Conflict is a key driver of food insecurity in the region. Despite the upcoming harvest period in the region, food insecurity and malnutrition is expected to increase in some areas. Particular areas of concern are Burundi, North East Ethiopia, Karamoja region of Uganda, Somalia and South Sudan. The current rainy season and the forecast carries with it the risk of flooding and potential disease outbreaks especially in Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan.

The compounded impact of these risks challenge governments and humanitarian actors. In a worst case scenario, they could threaten the social and economic stability of the region as a whole, and beyond.

The meeting demonstrates our collective commitment to addressing the challenges faced by the region in a holistic, coherent and efficient manner. We appreciate and strongly encourage the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region to promote a regional approach that addresses the fundamental drivers of displacement and other manmade aspects of the growing humanitarian crisis.

We ask Member States, Regional Organizations and the International Community to further support this collective effort by:

Redoubling efforts to end conflict and instability in eastern DRC, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Burundi: The only lasting solution is an end to violence. We call on all parties to conflict to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law and to bring an end to armed violence. We ask regional organizations to continue efforts to support mediation processes. We call on the international community to complement these processes as needed.

Ensuring adequate humanitarian funding to the region to meet the acute needs of people, while at the same time investing in building resilience, and in national and regional capacities to address humanitarian needs. Humanitarian appeals in the region are significantly underfunded, with further increases in humanitarian requirements anticipated in the next quarter. A further deterioration of humanitarian conditions could undermine security and development gains made in the region and beyond. Many people currently attempting to cross the Mediterranean are fleeing conflicts and repression in this region.

Working with banks and money transfer organizations to put in place a transitional mechanism until a proper financial system is in place in Somalia.

Continuing to host asylum seekers, refugees and migrants and ensure their protection and safety.

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