Remarks by Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini during meeting with the Security Council in Mogadishu
Mogadishu, 13 August 2014 - Good afternoon distinguished representatives of the Security Council. I am pleased to welcome you to Somalia and for this opportunity to brief you on the humanitarian situation in Somalia, on behalf of the members of the Somalia Humanitarian Country team, who are here today.
Today we face a stark reality. All the signs that we saw in the pre-famine period in 2010 are here: insecurity, constricted humanitarian access, increase in food and commodity prices, food insecurity as a result of delayed rains, deteriorating nutrition situation among children, particularly among the internally displaced, and lack of predictable funding.
Drought conditions are being observed in southern, central and north-eastern parts of the country.
Somalia has some of the worst human development indicators in the world due to abject poverty:
One in five children in Somalia dies before the age of five, mostly from preventable diseases. The infant and maternal mortality rates for Somalia are among the highest in the world. Furthermore, safe access to water at just 30 per cent remains one of the lowest in the world.
203,000 acutely malnourished in Somalia; of them 50,000 are severely acutely malnourished and on the doorstep of death
There are more than 1 million internally displaced people, over 350,000 in Mogadishu, live in appalling conditions, and lack access to minimum basic social services such as education, health, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene. The protection environment is weak and majority of victims of sexual violence are displaced women and girls.
One million Somalis are also seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
Furthermore, Somalia is still battling polio, which returned in May last year after having been eradicated in 2007, and is currently facing a measles outbreak with about 6,000 cases since the start of 2014.
In the first phase of the military offensive in southern and central Somalia, we saw Al Shabaab using a tactic of “encirclement”, blocking some of the main supply routes limiting the supply of aid and commercially available basic commodities, with price increases of 50 per cent and peaks ranging from 80 per cent to 100 per cent in some areas. This has impacted the food security and nutrition situation.
More than 73,000 civilians were displaced as a result of the military offensive in southern and central Somalia. The majority of them have not yet returned to their places of origin.
Human rights abuses, such as civilian casualties, forced recruitment, prevention to flee, destruction of property, extortion at illegal checkpoints during the flight, and gender-based violence, were reported in areas where military activities took place, but verification of these reports was a challenge due to insecurity and access constraints. In two weeks we will have the final analysis on the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance from food security experts. What we know, is that for the first time since the 2011 famine we will see the number of people in food security crisis and emergency go up again.
Last month, the Federal Government of Somalia described the humanitarian situation "as a precursor to the situation in 2011 in its intensity" and it has since established a Ministerial Emergency Response Committee to lead the development of a drought and emergency response plan.
The worst affected areas, and where the food security situation is expected to deteriorate, include parts of Bakool, Gedo, Hiraan, Lower Shabelle and Middle Juba regions. Bari and Nugaal regions of north-eastern Somalia are also facing drought due to poor Gu rains.
This might be further compounded by not only by the second phase of the military offensive by the Somali National Armed Forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia to oust the Al Shabaab; but also by the risk that remittances, another lifeline for millions of Somalis, are facing as banks continue to threaten to close Somali Money Transfer Organisations as they are seen as a high risk for illegal activities.
As you know, the operating environment in Somalia is difficult and dangerous. Security is volatile and aid workers are directly targeted.
Road access to deliver humanitarian assistance to most of the newly recovered areas remains extremely difficult and unpredictable. Air fields/strips are generally of poor quality, needing rehabilitation and too small for larger cargo aircraft to land. A new medium size (4 to 5 metric tons) cargo aircraft operation has just been launched, funded by the Common Humanitarian Fund, to support delivery of humanitarian supplies to some of these locations only accessible by air.
Despite the insecurity and challenges of operating in Somalia, humanitarian organizations are able to reach many people in need.
Humanitarian partners have proven that with adequate resources, they are able to provide services even in an extremely difficult and dangerous operating environment.
Last year’s massive and well- coordinated polio vaccination campaign reached over 4 million people and managed to contain the number of polio cases at 194 cases last year and only four confirmed cases this year. In addition, in 2014:
1.4 million people have been reached with food assistance and livelihood support
97,000 children have been assisted with nutritional services
Almost half a million people have been supported with access to safe water, temporary or permanent
500,000 people have been provided with essential health services
15,000 displaced people received emergency assistance packages and household items
About 4,400 survivors of protection violations were provided with psychosocial support
232, 000 school learners were reached with education support
Humanitarian partners are managing risks rather than avoiding them in order to save lives. Donors need to share this risk by supporting partners who are now better able to detect risks, evaluate the capacity of local partners, and track programmes, with stronger reporting and auditing tools.
The humanitarian appeal remains severely underfunded. The appeal lays out the required funds and programmes to respond to 857,000 people, most of them displaced, who need urgent assistance and another 2 million Somalis in food security “stress” level who struggle to meet their own minimal food requirements through June 2014.
So far in 2014, we have received $275 million, which is 30 per cent of the $933 million requested to meet needs until the end of the year.
In the first half of this year, Somalia had received 60 per cent of what was received last year.
The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated $20 million to Somalia in July, the largest allocation to a single country for underfunded emergencies. Somalia also benefitted from CERF rapid response with $1.45 million to help vaccinate 520,000 children against measles. These injections are vital and will be used to bolster critical humanitarian activities.
Lessons learned from the 2011 famine underscore the need to address chronic vulnerabilities and the root causes of the famine and other emergencies, and to enhance coping strategies and resilience. With limited funding, humanitarian partners have focused on immediate life-saving assistance at the expense of resilience programmes, which risk undermining efforts to break the cycle of crisis.
We need to act now. For months the humanitarian community in Somalia has pleaded for funding to avoid an emergency. I have said that we cannot wait for a crisis to be declared to get funds and respond. We learned this lesson in 2011. It took an official declaration of ‘Famine’ to mobilize resources. That was too late. Half of the 258,000 people who died in the 2011 famine died before famine was declared.
Security Council members, we appeal to you to ensure that previous military gains be translated into gains for the populations and for the peace-building agenda. The next offensive needs to address the supply road problem to ensure that basic commodities and humanitarian assistance reaches people in need.
We also need your help to keep Somalia on the international radar and attract adequate resources before it is too late. Without a stable humanitarian situation in Somalia, political gains will not hold. It is morally intolerable for the world to let Somalia go into crisis only a few years after the devastating famine.
More specifically, we are asking Member States to:
a. Continue hosting Somali asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants and ensure their protection and safety, and to ensure that refugee returns are voluntary and conducted in a safe and dignified manner.
b. Encourage Somalia to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.c. Work with banks and Somali Money Transfer Operators to put in place a transitional mechanism until a proper financial system is established for remittances.
Somalia is at a critical crossroad. You have been briefed about important strides in the political and state building endeavours despite challenges since the formation of the Federal Government of Somalia in September 2012. Unfortunately, some of these positive gains have not translated to an improvement in the humanitarian situation. If we fail to address humanitarian needs, it will not only lead to another acute humanitarian crisis, it will also undermine the peace and state building gains of the last two years and jeopardize Somalia's unique chance in 25 years to move out of a failed state status.
Thank you all.
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.