Hybrid, UN Headquarters, New York, 21 September 2022
Thanks David [Miliband] and thank you for reminding us at the outset of the voices that we need to listen to – they are the voices that should be guiding us today.
It’s a great privilege for me obviously to be co-hosting with these distinguished governments. Great to see Menata also with us here. And of course Taya, Abdirahman and Zamzam.
I’m particularly grateful, apart from our co-hosts to the Governments of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya for being here as we consider this important subject.
It’s not an easy one, and in answer to your question David, I fear that we aren’t going to make it. I fear we aren’t going to leverage the amount of funding we need both for humanitarian response as well as for resilience. I’ll come back to that.
That’s why this is an important but hopefully not a unique moment in terms of mobilizing international solidarity support and sympathy for these places that are suffering so much, through no fault of their own.
Like others, I also have my story which stays with me from my visit the other day. I went to Baidoa but I was also in Banadir which is in Mogadishu. It’s a regional hospital that is surviving somehow in very difficult circumstances. [It points to] the extraordinary nature of the people who are running that hospital.
There was a story of a small girl, two and a half years old, Nuurto, who came from the Lower Shabelle region. She’d walked a week with her parents - she hadn’t walked herself very much because she was so, so ill. She was one of the children who couldn’t cry, and she seemed to be in a desperate condition.
But as I was told by the medical staff these are the lucky ones. The people who make it to hospitals tend to survive - the survival rate is quite extraordinary - [a testament to] the extraordinary resilience of the people of Somalia.
But Nuurto did not make it. A day after we visited her she died. One life as we all know is worth every life. And her life should be driving us and does today.
While I was there the Famine Review Committee – we have talked about it a lot –with [Somali Drought Envoy] Abdirahman Abdishakur and the President, H.E. Hassan Sheikh Momamud. as well as with the Prime Minister of Somalia – who I thought responded very sanely and wisely. They made it clear this was the final warning for the people in affected area of Somalia. That unless we have that huge effort to try to mobilize support for the people, there will be famine – the wording of the Famine Review Committee Report is very clear: there will be famine. It’s not there may be, there will be.
And as you pointed out David at the beginning, from our experience of 2010 and 2011 that people die ahead of that declaration because I think rightly that declaration is very rigorous. It is a very rigorous last moment. And people are dying now.
Half a million children in Somalia are severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death. Three million animals there have died already. The scale of the suffering is going to be awful.
Twenty million people across the Horn are now acutely food insecure. 16 million people have no access to water.
It’s hard to even imagine it.
Desperation leads to the need to move - because as we’ve heard elsewhere, Somalia has the most rapid urbanization rate in the world because of people moving from hard to reach areas to places where they can receive some help.
Women and girls are always particularly at risk and are particularly vulnerable – 80 per cent of the displaced are women and girls. And of course they are vulnerable to gender-based violence, exchanging sex for survival and early marriage. We’ve seen this before.
In Ethiopia, 10 million people require food aid. Malnutrition is on the rise, with close to 3 million children and pregnant and lactating women expected to need nutrition assistance through the end of the year. I am grateful to Samantha [Power] for reminding us – it’s the combination of delivering as one – food security, nutritional support, health and water, hygiene supplies and sanitation – it’s delivering those together through local partners, through the front line responders who need our funding and support and protection– it is only when we come together that we give people that chance to pull themselves back from the brink.
In Kenya, more than 4.3 million people need humanitarian assistance. Almost 1 million children under age 5 are acutely malnourished. Like others I was in Turkana, where we saw vividly the end for generations of a way of life.
This is also one of the most shocking aspects of this that people who have survived for generations as pastoralists - they know before we do that their way of life is over. Because we do face a fifth rainy season failing. We do face a sixth rainy season failing and all the predictions are going in the wrong direction. They need our assistance to provide an alternative livelihood.
And I was quite shocked in Baidoa in the IDP site that I visited, that people had been there for nine years – IOM I think has been very involved there - but we haven’t provided those people with an alternative. I met people who’d been there for eight years knowing they knew they couldn’t go home. Knowing they had no home to return to. So the resilience as we term it, is as important to all of us as is lifesaving. We talked on the way in with Samantha – it’s not an either or, both are extraordinarily important.
I have three asks – we always have three asks.
It’s great that we heard extra commitments today. Thank you all very much. But we need a lot more. I think I said off the cuff when I was in Somalia that we need another US$1 billion as a kind of order of magnitude. This [latest funding] will help a lot but we need more.
And we need to get it to the people who can use it best. You represent them David [Miliband] – your organization. We all know who they are.
And as we move in Somalia and elsewhere into hard to reach areas, well then we need to get it to the local partners who have the knowledge, capacity and frankly the courage to do that job. It is not us – it is through us we need to get it to people on the front line.
There is a commitment in the humanitarian community to getting a percentage of assistance to local organizations – a rather patronizing phrase – we all know what it means and we all know we are failing to reach those targets in the Horn.
Multi-sector funding is critical and it needs to go as I say to those who can spend it best.
Naturally in my position I’d like to protect and promote our humanitarian funds that are generously funded and do have a good record – of investment in local organizations. we have one in Ethiopia and one in Somalia – more assistance to that will be well-received.
And then access – we must enable access. And again huge credit to the Government of Somalia for facing a difficult internal security problem with all our sympathy for their prediction and their plight but they are also very strongly in favour of us in careful circumstances getting to people in those areas. That is a huge indicator of leadership. And is vitally important. It is about access.
This is the third time in a decade we have heard that hunger and indeed famine has threatened the Horn of Africa.
Disrupting that cycle of suffering is so important. We have all been here before. We knew how to do it in 216 and 2017 and we are going to fail to do it this year.
This year it will be closer to 2011 and that is a shame and a stain on all of us.
And it is partly because we haven’t mobilized sufficient alternative livelihoods, resilience, water supply management and so forth.
The Secretary-General has been banging the drum about climate funding. As you know in Pakistan we met Samantha there – and he was talking about climate carnage, about the need for justice more than generosity. We clearly need to work together a as major, major urgent requirement to leverage climate money – however much it is – even if it is not the eye-watering promises that we heard - for these countries. It is a sadness for all of us that Somalia has yet to receive a penny.
So as we move to COP 27, we have to speak out. We have to mobilize the opinion of youth who are suffering the climate consequences of our actions, and who are the people we are here to listen to.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.