Humanitarian aid for the victims of continuing insecurity and climatic hazards in Somalia


Explanatory memorandum


Large scale humanitarian needs persist in Somalia as a result of the ongoing civil conflict, compounded by climatic extremes such as drought and flooding. Access to address these needs is complicated by logistic constraints, but above all by the complicated process of negotiation with local actors in a volatile security environment. ECHO's priority is to address the core emergency humanitarian needs. To do so, in the Somalia context, requires having humanitarian partners in place and thus able to respond rapidly with great flexibility. In order to ensure the presence of partners in areas of regularly recurring emergency humanitarian need, ECHO will contribute to the continuing activities of these partners to address extreme vulnerability that quickly becomes an emergency need and/or where chronic needs and vulnerability have reached levels where these qualify as humanitarian needs.

The main areas of need are southern and central Somalia, including Mogadishu, with approximately two thirds of the population. This is not exclusive, however, as the recent drought emergency in north east Somalia demonstrates.

The main sectors for such humanitarian interventions are health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and livestock.


2.1. General Context

General Background:

Since the collapse of the Siad Barre Regime in 1991, Somalia has been in a state of civil strife, warlordism and anarchy. Notably in Central and Southern Somalia, the situation is characterised by frequent armed confrontations among a considerable variety of different warring factions continuously changing alliances.

The very fragile political setting, further aggravated by climate changes generating cycles of droughts and floods, has resulted in widespread serious humanitarian needs, notably in the health and nutrition sector, but also in food security as well as water and sanitation. The absence of a functioning government and administration and the destruction of social services and the infrastructure contribute to the perpetuation of these long-term chronic needs. Access to any basic health care services, clean water, sanitation or education is extremely limited. Traditional coping mechanisms and livelihoods have been crippled by the endemic insecurity. Several hundred thousand Somalis were forced to flee their homes. And even in a situation when sufficient rains coincide with a period of relative peace in a particular area, the repayment of debt or the recurrence of insecurity consumes the gains made during this period. Most Somali households are facing today a high degree of chronic vulnerability. The large majority of the population (estimated at some 7 million people) is living in absolute poverty (HDI was estimated in 2001 at 0.284, ranking Somalia 161 out of 163 states). Humanitarian access to entire districts is frequently hampered by insecurity.

2.2. Current Situation

While the Mbagathi peace process - the 14th such process - proceeds into its third and final stage, the situation on the ground remains little changed. Chronic vulnerability at household level has reached such an extent that any shock, man-maid or due to a natural disaster, translates into an acute humanitarian crisis. Most recently this has occurred in north east Somalia where successive years of drought have now exhausted local coping capacity.

Security has worsened recently with the murder of 4 expatriate aid workers in the final quarter of 2003. These direct targeted executions are a new type of risk, linked to the geo-political context in the wider Region, and are being analysed closely to adapt security protocols. Continued conflicts, particularly in southern and central Somalia, including Mogadishu, have further complicated access.

Nevertheless, in this difficult environment, over the past year aid agencies have been able to increase access through an approach based on a good knowledge of, and relations with, local communities.

Humanitarian situation: (Figures cited in the sections below come largely from the United Nations Development Programme National Human Development Report for Somalia, 2001. These reports are provided every three years based on compilation and analysis of information provided, inter alia, by aid agencies working in Somalia.)

While there is broad agreement on the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in particular in Central and Southern Somalia, and more recently the north east, there are few reliable general data. Most published figures remain rough estimates. This is mainly due to the difficulty of access as well as the mobility of the Somali population, which traditionally also includes temporary migration into neighbouring countries. It is estimated that 77% of the population do not have access to safe water, 72% do not have access to health services and 50% do not have access to sanitation. In this framework, humanitarian aid has to participate in reducing chronic vulnerability, in order to increase the most vulnerable groups' ability to cope with climatic hazard and man-made disasters. This should translate into improving access to essential social services through Public Health, Water & Sanitation, and Food Security projects, and increase their coverage in rural areas.

Humanitarian aid also has to address any new or additional acute humanitarian emergency situation, arising from climatic hazard or man-made disasters, to address immediate suffering, but also to reduce, as much as possible, their impact on the most fragile household livelihoods, therefore participating in reducing the amplitude of these chronic cycles of vulnerability. This has to translate into timely and relevant emergency Health & Nutrition, Water & Sanitation, and Non Food Items interventions in the affected areas.