The top United Nations relief official in Somalia on Tuesday stressed the need to improve communities’ resilience to better withstand the effects of recurring droughts such as famines in the Horn of Africa nation.
Peter de Clercq, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, said the international community wants to overcome famine threat in northeast of Somalia but not just postpone it.
“The humanitarian effort is our foremost priority. It is, of course, first on our minds,” De Clercq said in a statement issued in Mogadishu following visiting Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, where he met with various high-level officials and civil society representatives.
“After a year of very hard collective work, having avoided so far the famine, we don’t want to just say we have postponed it, we want to say that we have successfully fought and overcome the famine,” he said.
The UN official said results of a recent drought impact needs assessment, led by Somalia’s federal and regional governments with the support of international partners, point to food insecurity and rapid urbanization as some of the underlying causes of the humanitarian emergency.
He said supporting people in emergency situations together with simultaneously building resilience “will help prevent the next famine and not only delay it.”
According to the UN, while famine had been averted in the northeast of the Horn of Africa in 2017, thanks to the efforts of Somalis and their international partners, the risk of famine associated with the drought is still very present, with millions of people in the region still in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance.
According to the UN, the newly developed Plan for Somalia for 2018 reflects a commitment by aid agencies to better support Somalis in addressing the extensive humanitarian needs throughout the country.
According to the UN, food security needs have nearly doubled the five-year average, with an estimated 2.44 million people in crisis and 866,000 in emergency– that is, one step away from famine–throughout Somalia.
The number of Somalis on the brink of famine has grown tenfold since this time last year, says the UN.
An estimated 1.2 million children are projected to be malnourished in 2018, 232,000 of whom will face life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.