Situation in Somalia difficult, but not ‘hopeless,’ says top UN envoy


The top United Nations envoy to Somalia characterises the situation in the Horn of Africa nation as “very difficult but not hopeless.”

Speaking to UN Radio from his headquarters in Nairobi, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said that among the tragedies, there was the fact that many of the people fleeing the capital were escaping violence for at least the second time.

They had returned to Mogadishu after the signing of the UN-backed peace agreements in Djibouti in January, only to be sent running for their lives again after intense fighting between Government troops and the opposition Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam groups began in Mogadishu on May 8,

Most of the uprooted have headed to makeshift camps south-west of the capital that already are home to some 400 000 people.

“I hope they will return soon with the betterment of the situation,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said today.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that over 50 000 severely malnourished children throughout the country will be without supplies because of the fighting in Mogadishu and the 17 May looting of a UNICEF office in the town of Jowhar, 90 kilometres north of the capital, which serves as the main hub for the provision of services and supplies to the whole of the central and southern regions of Somalia.

Ould-Abdallah said today that he does not believe the current situation in Somalia is hopeless.

“It is a long-running conflict,” he said, noting that “the tragedy in Somalia is the central government has been very weak.”

With the Djibouti peace agreement, the Representative said, “we have the beginning of a credible [government]. We have to help it be functional.”

Acknowledging that it is a “tough job,” he underscored that the situation is “not hopeless – and it may in fact work!”

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that dry food distributions had not been adversely affected as of Thursday, with 14 out of 16 distribution points in Mogadishu serving over 80 000 cooked meals on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children`s Fund (UNICEF) has strongly condemned the looting and destruction of relief supplies in the Somali town of Johar, warning that this will have an enormous impact on efforts to aid the country`s women and children.

“Our programmes, including provision of immunization against preventable diseases like measles and polio, operation of feeding centres for acutely malnourished children, implementation of Child Health Days Campaign, as well as provision of safe drinking water will be severely hampered, putting the lives of vulnerable children and their communities at risk,” said Christian Balslev- Olesen, UNICEF Representative to Somalia.

According to a news release, militiamen looted supplies and destroyed assets and equipment.

Jowhar is the main hub for the provision of services and supplies to the whole of the central and southern regions of Somalia, noted UNICEF.

The agency said that the cold chain (vaccine storage) equipment has been affected, destroying thousands of doses of measles, polio and other vaccines that were meant to prevent serious diseases among Somali children. Also, supplies of food for the prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition among children were also looted.

Among other things, the incident will disrupt the second round of the Child Health Days Campaign aiming to reach over 1.2 million under-five children and 840,000 women with a high-impact life-saving health and nutritional packages, the UN News Service adds.

“These malicious acts of looting and vandalism that pose a serious threat to the lives and welfare of Somali children must stop,” said Mr. Balslev-Olesen. “UNICEF urges all parties involved to have children`s well-being at heart. Humanitarian operations must not be impeded.”

At least 3.2 million people – or 40 per cent of the Horn of Africa nation`s population – will continue to need humanitarian assistance and livelihood support through this September, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs