A senior United Nations official has cautioned that the harsh drought conditions currently afflicting much of Somalia are likely to trigger a major humanitarian crisis if urgent action is not taken to contain the situation.
During a visit to Baidoa, the interim capital of South West State, the Acting Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (DSRSG) for Somalia, George Conway, issued the warning while he was assessing the effects of the prolonged drought on vulnerable populations in the area.
“A major challenge right now is the underfunding of the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, currently only funded to 19 percent for the year, which is very worrying with the current extent of the humanitarian crisis that is evolving,” said Mr. Conway, who is also the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator.
The DSRSG said the situation required strong advocacy with donor and financing partners to bring the humanitarian response up to scale, “so we don’t find ourselves in Somalia in a situation where people are moving increasingly into crisis and potentially over the edge into more disastrous conditions.”
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), drought conditions in the 2018/19 Deyr rainy season have led to an increase in the number of people designated as “food insecure” in Somalia since October of last year.
OCHA warned that a deterioration into crisis conditions is expected in many pastoral and agro-pastoral areas during the month of May, due to funding shortfalls that may hamper a full implementation of the planned food assistance.
Mr. Conway was accompanied by Monika Agnete Pollan Thowsen, senior advisor on humanitarian affairs at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Svein Olav Svoldal, first secretary at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi, and Matija Kovac, the head of OCHA’s Humanitarian Financing Unit.
The day-long trip included a visit to temporary shelters in Baidoa to assess the living conditions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and weigh up appropriate measures to alleviate their suffering.
The visiting delegation also held discussions on the unfolding humanitarian crisis with the President of South West State, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed “Laftagareen,” and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who work with IDPs.
“Today we received a delegation that came to assess the humanitarian situation in South West, particularly in Baidoa.
We discussed the pressing challenges – mainly the delayed rains, how to scale up humanitarian response, and how to mobilize resources to tackle the drought affecting our people,” President Laftagareen said.