What's In Blue

Posted Tue 3 Jun 2014

Consultations on the Humanitarian Situation in Somalia

Tomorrow (4 June), Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos is scheduled to brief the Security Council in consultations on the humanitarian situation in Somalia. The upcoming briefing by Amos was initially suggested on 22 May by the UK, the penholder on Somalia, during consultations concerning the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.

The humanitarian situation in Somalia is critical and deteriorating. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) 857,000 people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, two million people are in food security “stress”, 1.1 million people are internally displaced, and there are one million Somali refugees in nearby countries. One in seven children under the age of five in Somalia – approximately 203,000 -are acutely malnourished, including more than 50,000 that are severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death.

Increasing food insecurity in Somalia can be partly attributed to natural causes, but the principal factor may be the escalation of armed conflict between the joint forces of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Army (SNA) and Al-Shabaab. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, late and erratic rains caused a below average harvest in January, and the upcoming harvest in August is similarly projected to be below average. The prices of staples, such as maize and sorghum, have increased significantly, including in Mogadishu. Meanwhile, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that 73,000 people have been internally displaced since the military offensive launched in March (which can also negatively impact food production as farmers are forced away from their fields). Perhaps most significantly, Al-Shabaab has imposed an embargo on humanitarian and commercial shipments by road into much of the territory captured by the AMISOM-SNA offensive, further exacerbating food insecurity.

Despite an immense need for humanitarian assistance, donor funding has been limited. As of 20 May, the Consolidated Appeal for Somalia, which requested $933 million for 2014, has only been 19% funded at $177 million thus far. The largest components of the humanitarian appeal are food security and nutrition, which comprise more than half of the consolidated budget. Other areas of humanitarian assistance that would be affected by a lack of contributions include health, water/sanitation/hygiene, protection, shelter and education. For example, on 27 May the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated that without new funds it would be forced to suspend provision of essential health services to women and children within a month (more than 70% of healthcare is provided by UNICEF and its partners). According to OCHA, $60 million is immediately required to fund emergency needs that have been identified for a three-month operational response plan. During tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may choose to consider how member states could be mobilised to contribute toward humanitarian operations in Somalia.

In the absence of an urgent humanitarian response to early warning indicators, Somalia risks experiencing another famine analogous to 2011, in which more than 250,000 people died. As Philippe Lazzarini, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, noted in a statement on 9 May, “the parallels to the pre-famine period in 2010, when the combination of shrinking access, declining funds and a few failed rainy seasons led to a devastating crisis, are very worrying.”

As the Council has been predominantly focused on the political and security aspects of developments in Somalia, particularly since the launch of Operation Eagle in March, the briefing tomorrow serves as a useful opportunity to raise awareness among Council members on critical humanitarian issues currently facing the country. There are important trade-offs involved with the current counter-insurgency strategy, such as attaining military gains at the cost of a deteriorating humanitarian situation, which Council members should be fully cognisant of as events unfold.

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