War-torn and drought-ravaged Somalia is facing a humanitarian crisis with no funding so far raised or pledged for next year for food, water, sanitation, health and other vital needs and the potential that the situation could spill over into a major regional crisis for its neighbours, senior United Nations officials warned.
“The main message that we have is that the potential humanitarian funding crisis is life-threatening, it threatens a large proportion of the population,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Bowden told a news briefing in New York, noting that UN agencies are going into a new humanitarian funding cycle with no carry-over finances.
“The consequences of not addressing the situation in Somalia is that we could expect more displacement into other parts of the region putting a great deal more stress on Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya at a time when they can’t afford to support them either.”
The agencies are talking to donors, some of whom are concerned about the effectiveness of aid in a country torn apart by factional fighting and without a functioning central government since 1991, or worried that humanitarian supplies could fall into the hands of terrorists, but so far nothing has been concluded.
“Time is precious… so if we don’t resolve this soon, the humanitarian consequences are very, very serious indeed,” he added.
“Time is running out.”
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also took up the issue of donors’ concerns, stressing that the feeling that aid can barely do anything in Somalia is misplaced.
It is important to remember that the country has been polio free since 2007 and this year has immunized 1.5 million children 85 per cent of those under five as well as 1 million women, 65 per cent of those of child bearing age against tetanus, said UNICEF country representative Rozanne Chorlton.
“So Somalia on track to be measles- and tetanus-free,” Chorlton told the briefing, underscoring the need to keep up this level of activity.
“Really big things can happen in Somalia in terms of humanitarian service delivery, in terms of saving lives. If we fail to get at least $12 million for the first quarter of next year, people will die, children will die.”
Overall, the humanitarian sector is seeking $689 million for the whole of next year.
Bowden said, noting that over the past year the number of people in need of assistance on a regular basis had risen from 3.17 million to 3.64 million, well over half the total population, while 1.18 million face an acute crisis of food and livelihood insecurity.
Some 1.55 million are displaced, “almost the world’s largest displacement,” he added.
He cited slow decision making in donor countries, a global downturn in humanitarian assistance, donor fatigue and the fear of aid falling into the hands of extremists among the reasons for the funding crisis. For 2009 humanitarian agencies received only about half of the $900 million sought for the year, thus allowing no carry-over for 2010.