Somalia: political solution key to averting humanitarian catastrophe, says UN official

26 March 2008 –

Supporting a joint statement issued by dozens of humanitarian agencies warning of an impending catastrophe in Somalia, the United Nations relief chief today said that political reconciliation is essential to solve the problem.

“We have to make clear that the people of Somalia deserve an urgent solution,” John Holmes, who serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and as Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in an interview with UN Radio.

However, the answer cannot be a solely humanitarian one, he stressed. “We can provide the means to keep people alive while that solution is being sought, but the solution is going to have to be based on political progress and a different security environment from the sort of ‘Wild West’ environment that prevails at the moment.”

The statement issued by the some 40 agencies today warned that close to 1 million displaced Somalis rely on aid to meet their most basic needs. It also noted that violence continues to drive 20,000 residents of the capital Mogadishu from their homes monthly.

Issuing an urgent call for the international community and Somali parties to focus their attention on Somalia –which has not had a functioning government in nearly two decades – the agencies deplored the routine attacks, robberies and killings of aid workers as well as the theft and looting of relief supplies.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), backing the statement, today said that the prevailing violence and impunity in the country are unacceptable and must stop.

UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters that OCHA agrees with the agencies that Somalia’s situation is “precarious, deteriorating and in urgent need of international attention.”

She added that despite the UN having the necessary personnel and resources to help Somalis in need, its access is hindered by the parties and the violence.

OCHA urged the sides to do away with roadblocks, reduce restrictions on aid agencies and ensure the safety of all civilians.


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