The ongoing hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa is growing in scale from one day to the next. 750 000 people could die over the next four months if relief operations are not scaled up. In southern Somalia alone, over 400 000 children are acutely undernourished. The human suffering behind these numbers is beyond comprehension.
Sadly, the crisis may be further exacerbated if farmers are unable to sow their crops before October, or if the rainy season fails once again. Even if there is rain, this could cause problems for a population that is now extremely vulnerable to water-borne diseases.
While climate variations, soaring food prices and the global economic crisis are important factors in the hunger crisis, it is clear that the main reason for the dire situation in Somalia is the protracted conflict. It has made local communities extremely vulnerable, even in the face of natural and recurring climate variations.
The drought was expected. Norway therefore provided significant funding at an early stage to the UN, the International Red Cross and other NGOs with a view to preventing the grave situation we are now witnessing. It is primarily the hostilities in southern Somalia and the lack of access to those in need that have made it difficult to provide assistance. We are seeing the consequences of this now.
There is no humanitarian solution to the humanitarian crisis in Somalia. The only long-term solution in Somalia is a political solution that ensures peace and stability, good governance, human rights and the rule of law.
It is vital that the transitional government in Mogadishu reach out to all segments of Somali society, even their enemies. Norway will support the TFG and their efforts to establish a stable and functioning state in Somalia.
Meeting urgent needs, while at the same time ensuring long-term sustainable solutions, requires joint efforts by all actors, including the appropriate regional organisations, like IGAD and the AU. There must be greater focus on reducing local vulnerability, increasing local capacity to cope with disasters and active local participation.
Receiving refugees is never easy, and the hospitality demonstrated by Kenya and Ethiopia sets an example for other countries in the region and for the world at large.
Being displaced is dangerous and the crowded camps in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mogadishu and in central Somalia are putting already vulnerable communities under additional pressure. We are particularly concerned about the occurrence of sexual violence against women and girls both on their way to and in the refugee and IDP camps.
In our efforts to save lives we must do everything possible to prevent further displacement. It is therefore vital to ensure free and unimpeded humanitarian access to all parts of Somalia in order to help those who are most severely affected where they are.
The UN is also under stress in Somalia. Of all the UN agencies operating in Somalia, only FAO and UNICEF have access to the worst affected parts. OCHA faces severe challenges in coordinating humanitarian operations in Somalia due to lack of access and actors that don’t want to be coordinated.
There is however no alternative to an UN-coordinated operation. We encourage all member states to support the work of the UN in Somalia and recommend the Common Humanitarian Fund for Somalia as an efficient tool for providing rapid, targeted aid to the Somalis.
Norway has already provided NOK 320 million earlier this year and is now providing an additional NOK 300 million to help the victims of the crisis in and around Somalia. These funds are being channelled through the UN, the International Red Cross and other organisations with a presence in the worst affected areas. These funds will also be used to make those affected more resilient to new crises.