|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia
With malnutrition rates in Somalia approaching emergency proportions, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the East African country today sounded the alarm about the effects of the deadly confluence of events driven by prolonged drought and skyrocketing global food and commodity prices.
“We are seriously concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Somalia, where, without a rapid and effective response, more lives will be lost through malnutrition,” warned Mark Bowden at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon. Citing worrying reports from refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, which indicated extremely high global acute malnutrition rates among new arrivals from Somalia, he said: “We must take action now to avert larger-scale crisis.”
The population movements out of Somalia were largely spurred by the lingering drought that had affected local food production, and global price spikes in food staples and commodities, he said. While the number of malnourished children was steadily rising, relief workers in the camps were also reporting high levels of malnutrition among adults, which was usually a key indicator of just how bad the problem was. Moreover, humans were not the only population being impacted, he said, noting that increasingly huge numbers of cattle and livestock had been lost to successive poor rainy seasons.
“Levels of distress are increasing throughout the country,” he said, but stressed that the epicentre of the burgeoning crisis was in the central and southern parts of the nation held by al-Shabaab. While that group was allowing some aid into central Somaliland, southern Somaliland and parts of Mogadishu, it held a “strong position” against food deliveries. “The net effect is that people just can’t get enough food to eat,” he said, adding that when and where there was food available, it was being sold at incredibly high prices, “knocking people down not to destitution but to absolute malnutrition”.
Making all of that worse was the fact that the resources available to the United Nations and the wider humanitarian community to tackle the situation were “woefully inadequate at the moment”, he said. Since it was possible to get some food into the country through Kenya and other land-based routes, the challenge was speedily stepping up such efforts. The United Nations appeal for humanitarian aid, launched in the wake of the drought in Somalia, remained only partially funded at just 40 per cent. More resources and targeted efforts were also needed to address the particular challenges that accompanied large population movements.
“We are capable of doing more, but we don’t have the resources to do it,” he said in response to one correspondent’s question. He added that the Transitional Federal Government’s remit was basically only Mogadishu, where prices were slightly lower. So while the issue was not as pressing there, the overall capacity to move the amounts of food and supplies needed into Somalia at the moment “is just not there”. Without speedy and effective action, the world was likely to see malnutrition deaths rise to “rates similar to that of 20 years ago”.
He told another correspondent that the United Nations was searching for other ways to address the food crisis. But with the combined effects of major local crop failures and high global food prices, “the capacity to increase food supplies will be, for the time being, extremely limited”.
* *** *For information media • not an official record