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UN says over 5.5 mln displaced across Horn of Africa by end 2017

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- More than 5.5 million people were displaced across the Horn of Africa by the end of December 2017, including around 4.1 million internally displaced and 1.4 million living in the region as refugees and asylum seekers, the UN said in a report released on Tuesday.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its humanitarian outlook that the Horn of Africa remains a major migration transit route including to and from the Arabian Peninsula and to Europe.

“The Horn of Africa is both the host and the source of significant population displacement and mixed migration movements, and this is expected to continue in the first six months of 2018,” said OCHA.

“The combination of drought, conflict and insecurity have worsened protection concerns, with violations against civilians, including sexual and gender-based violence as well as against children, expected to continue in the months ahead,” it said.

According to the report, in addition to climatic shocks—and in some instances compounded or driven by them—conflict, insecurity and political instability remain important drivers of humanitarian need in the region.

The report said food insecurity escalated by 36 percent in 2017, leaving 14.6 million people severely food insecure by the end of the year.

The report said humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa remain high, driven by climatic shocks, conflict, insecurity and political instability.

The region is expected to remain the epicenter of food insecurity and malnutrition in the first six months of 2018, said the UN.

“Across the Horn of Africa, nearly 5.2 million children and women were estimated to be acutely malnourished by the end of 2017 and 639,718 severely malnourished children were admitted for treatment during the year,” it said.

In Somalia, the report said, 1.2 million children and pregnant and lactating women (PLW) are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition from September 2017 to September, including 230,000 children who are projected to be severely acutely malnourished (SAM) during this period.

“In Ethiopia, 3.6 million children and pregnant and lactating women (PLW) were acutely malnourished in 2017,” said the UN.

In Kenya, the report said, 370,000 children required treatment for acute malnutrition in the drought-affected Arid and Semi-Arid Land areas as of the end of 2017.



UN says food security in Somalia improves amid declines in famine

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Food security has improved in Somalia mainly due to continued large-scale humanitarian assistance and seasonal improvements to food and income sources during the Deyr (October-December) season, the UN-backed food security analysis revealed on Monday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) assessments however showed that 2.7 million people will face Crisis or Emergency between now and June.

“This represents improvement in the overall food security situation in Somalia compared to the 3.2 million people projected to be in Crisis or worse between April and December 2017,” said the report released in Mogadishu.

The report said that although the risk of famine has declined, in the absence of assistance, many households would face large food consumption gaps.

“Humanitarian assistance must be sustained to prevent further deterioration of the food security and nutrition situation in Somalia,” FSNAU said.

According to the report, an additional 2.7 million people are classified as Stressed through June, adding that in total, 5.4 million people across Somalia face acute food insecurity.

“In addition, in the absence of continued large-scale assistance, food security is expected to deteriorate through June 2018, as food and income sources decline further,” the report said.

The report, however, said 2017 Deyr rains were still below average in most parts of Somalia and the 2018 Gu (April-June) rains are also forecast to be below average.

“As a result, food and income sources are expected to remain below normal in most areas throughout the projection period,” FSNAU said.


Senior UN officials in Somalia to help tackle food insecurity

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Two senior UN officials arrived in Mogadishu on Tuesday to underline the immense challenge of persistent food insecurity and the new approach to addressing it.

Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock and UN Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner will also meet with senior government officials, humanitarian and development partners.

“The UN principals will highlight the need to continue life-saving humanitarian assistance as an urgent priority, while simultaneously addressing the root causes of Somalia’s recurring humanitarian crises and encouraging investment in the untapped potential of the country,” the UNDP said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Horn of Africa nation averted a famine last year when the government and partners heeded early warning reports and ramped up the response.

“But the drought and ongoing conflict, coupled with the resultant displacement of a million people last year, has left six million people in need of humanitarian assistance,” said the UNDP.

The UN agency said recurrent drought and subsequent famine risk have become a devastating and unsustainable cycle in Somalia, noting that 4.5 billion U.S. dollars have been spent on emergency responses to save lives in the years since the 2011 famine.


AU calls for more UN support to realize Somalia elections in 2020

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui, on Monday called for more support from the UN to realize national elections in Somalia by 2020.

Chergui, speaking at the sidelines of the second day of session of the 30th African Union (AU) Assembly of Heads of State and Government, said the AU has budget for peacekeeping operations in Somalia that lasts only until May 2018.

He was particularly referring to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations in Somalia.

AMISOM, which recently marked 10 years of peacekeeping in strife-torn Somalia, has grown from a force of several hundred to around 22,000.

The mission has for some time faced monetary pressure and domestic concerns over casualties from troop contributing nations. Currently, Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Uganda and Djibouti make up the AMISOM force.

“As much as we regain territories, degrade terrorist group Al-Shabab, we need to train and prepare Somali national forces to take over for these interrelated processes progress to be sustainable,” said Chergui.

“There’s an overwhelming unanimity among AU member states on the need to build institutions, to promote excellent relationship among all regional leaders and prepare next step in 2020 where we can have a new election with international standard” said Chergui.

“As much as we celebrate the defeat of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, we want the international community to put at our disposal the same means and support so that we can quickly recover the territories lost to terrorists in Somalia, Lake Chad basin, Mali and Sahel region,” he added.


At least 7 al-Shabaab militants killed in south Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Somali security forces on Monday killed at least seven al-Shabaab militants and injured a number of others following heavy fighting with insurgents in Bay region, in the south part of the Horn of Africa nation.

Burhakaba District Commissioner in Bay region Mohamed Ibrahim confirmed that four government soldiers, including a senior commander, were killed in the fighting.

“We have killed seven al-Shabaab militants, injured several others and recovered four guns after fighting that lasted several hours in Lug-habar location, along the road which joins Burhakaba and Baidoa town in this region,” Ibrahim said.

He said the Somali National Army (SNA) conducted the operation against al-Shabaab militants in the area after getting information that the insurgents had mounted a checkpoint in the area.

Al-Shabaab militants, however, said they won the battle with Somali National Army, claiming to have killed SNA’s commander for Bur-hakaba town, Abdirahman Osman Abrone.

The group said its fighters ambushed a SNA convey from Baidoa town, the administrative capital of Southwest State in Somalia to Burhakaba town.

The latest fighting came amid military operations in the region to flush out insurgents who have been mounting near-daily attacks on African Union peacekeeping mission bases, government installations and other public places.



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