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Somalia urged to allow urgent access for humanitarian relief

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) -- Somalia was on Tuesday urged to remove all obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to drought-hit populations amid possible famine in the Horn of Africa nation.

Participants at a high-level roundtable meeting convened by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, widely known as Farmajo, in Mogadishu urged Mogadishu to temporarily suspend new bureaucratic requirements placed on aid providers at regions to enable aid agencies address the severe drought currently afflicting over 6 million people.

A communique issued after the meeting said the participants agreed on the necessary steps to avert another devastating famine in the country and warned of the risks posed by the drought in undermining the significant progress achieved in the country over the past five years.

“Participants proposed the immediate implementation of a number of specific measures to mitigate the effects of the drought. These include extending to the import and export of foodstuffs, critical supplies and remittances; the provision of security; increased logistical support for access to drought-stricken areas; and the rehabilitation of vital infrastructure,” it said.

Participants also identified the drought crisis as the top priority currently facing Somalia and noted its particularly harsh impact on women, children and disabled persons.   

Participants in the roundtable discussions welcomed President Farmajo’s declaration of a national disaster and adopted a position of zero tolerance to the diversion of humanitarian assistance and pledged to hold accountable anyone engaging in such misconduct.

“The critical role of national and international non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies in providing life-saving assistance and livelihood support to populations at risk was emphasized,” the communique said.

The communique also underscored the role of the country’s private sector in facilitating the delivery of supplies to reach the most vulnerable communities and called on the Somali Diaspora to increase its remittances to support the drought response.

The meeting resolved to strengthen the role of the National Drought Response Committee and its state-level counterparts in the engagement of all actors in a coordinated plan of action to lessen the impact of the drought and prevent another famine.

“Only through urgent, collective and sustained action will we meet today’s urgent challenge and build a more prosperous and safe environment for future generations in Somalia and its neighbours,” the communique said.



44 aid agencies appeal for UN action to avert famine in Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Some 44 local and international aid agencies working in Somalia on Tuesday appealed to UN to take urgent action to avert possible famine in the Horn of Africa nation where at least 6.2 million people face acute food shortage.

In a joint letter to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the agencies urged the UN chief to encourage international community to step up its efforts to ensure that the mistakes made in 2011 are not repeated and push for immediate drought relief transitioning to longer restoration of livelihoods.

“We, the national and international humanitarian agencies working in Somalia, are writing to express our alarm about the possibility of famine in Somalia in early 2017,” reads the letter.

“We are running out of time. It is time to effectively come together and act in a joined up manner across the international system to keep the promise of ‘never again’,” said the agencies under an umbrella organization, Somalia NGO Consortium.

While appreciating the initiatives undertaken by the UN so far, the agencies however said the situation requires stronger partnerships and more commitment to coordination across the international system to effectively prevent a famine.

The organizations expressed concern about Somalia’s possible famine is not being seen with the urgency it demands globally and urged Guterres to encourage the Member States to expedite pledged allocations of additional resources to support a rapid scale-up of the humanitarian response in Somalia to prevent the loss of thousands of lives and avert a possible famine.

“On-going operations to reach vulnerable communities need to be scaled up rapidly across the country. This must include investment in resilience and be done in a way that enables longer-term prevention so families and communities do not slide further into crisis,” the aid agencies said.

In 2010-11, they said, systemic failures on the part of the international community led to a famine in Somalia in which nearly 260,000 people died - half of them children - and the world swore ‘never again’.

Following a poor Gu rainy season (April to June) and failed Deyr rainy season (October to December) in 2016, food security, pastures and water levels have deteriorated significantly across Somalia.

It is projected that famine would be expected if purchasing power declines and humanitarian assistance is unable to reach people in need.

More than 6.2 million people, or half of the population in Somalia, is in need of humanitarian assistance. Close to 1 million children are already malnourished.


Somalia declares drought national disaster, appeals for help

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Tuesday declared drought, which has been ravaging the Horn of Africa nation, a national disaster.

The president, widely known as Farmajo, also appealed to the international community to urgently respond to the calamity in order to help families and individuals and avoid humanitarian tragedy.

“President Farmajo has declared a national disaster to deal with the humanitarian emergency in all areas affected by the current drought,” said a statement issued in Mogadishu.

The statement came after the UN warned that Somalia is in the grip of an intense drought, induced by two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall.

In the worst-affected areas, inadequate rainfall and lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock, while communities are being forced to sell their assets and borrow food and money to survive.

The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have found that over 6.2 million people, or more than half of the country’s population, are in need of assistance, up from 5 million in September last year.

Farmajo also called on the Somali business community and diaspora to participate in the recovery efforts in the affected area, the statement said.


UNHCR’s repatriation of Somali refugees in Kenya nears 50,000

By Chris Mgidu NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that it has repatriated some 49,376 Somali refugees in Kenya since the return exercise begun in December 2014.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its bi-weekly update that out of the figure, some 10,062 were supported in 2017 alone.

“The number of flights has been significantly increased as it remains the only mean of transportation to Somalia. Returns movements by air are organized to Mogadishu, Kismayu and Baidoa,” it said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

According to the UNHCR, road convoys were also organized from Dadaab in northeast Kenyan camp to Dhobley in Somalia respectively on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“For the time being, flights from Dadaab to Somalia remain suspended owing to the security alerts in Mogadishu since December 23, 2016,” it said.

The UNHCR said a total number of persons relocated to Kakuma/Kalobeyei camp in northwest Kenya was 2,431 as of Feb. 13. Out of this number, 2,220 were relocated since the resumption of the relocation process on Jan. 16.

The report came after two UN agencies last week warned that critical shortages in food assistance are affecting some 2 million refugees in ten African countries.

The UNHCR and WFP warned that the shortages could worsen in coming months without new resources to meet food needs.

According to the UN agencies, ten refugee operations in Africa have experienced cuts affecting the quantity and quality of food assistance for approximately 2 million refugees.

The agencies said food rations have been dramatically cut, in some cases by up to 50 percent, in large operations including in Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Mauritania, South Sudan and Uganda.



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