Drought-hit Somalia on brink of humanitarian disaster, warns UN expert

Abandoned houses due to drought in Puntland, northeastern Somalia

2 March 2011 – A United Nations human rights expert today called on the international community to step up efforts to address the impact of the devastating drought in Somalia, warning that the country is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster if action is not taken immediately.

Shamsul Bari, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, noted in a news release that the ongoing drought response is far from meeting the needs of the affected population in terms of access to food, clean water and health.

“The drought situation in the country and the slow international response is extremely serious and may lead to a natural and human disaster,” said Mr. Bari, who visited Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti last month.

“I strongly urge the international community, including the UN, to take immediate and concerted measures to address the dire humanitarian crisis that affects all human rights of the vulnerable Somali population, including women, children and the elderly as well as the internally displaced people (IDP) and minorities,” he said.

The drought is exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation in Somalia, where civilians have been caught up in the fighting pitting forces of the country’s transitional government, who are backed by African Union peacekeepers, against insurgents of the Al-Shabaab armed group and other militants.

Mr. Bari warned that “the drought is now a cause for displacement in Somalia, in addition to conflict,” and expressed his deep concerns over its effect on the life of the population in many regions of Somalia.

“It was with shock and great sadness that during my recent field visit to Mogadishu, Puntland and Somaliland I learnt from local authorities and civil society from the various parts of Somalia that the drought affected population has sought assistance closer to urban areas, such as Mogadishu, where the ongoing fighting presents increased risk for the civilian population.”

Last month UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos had warned that severe drought in Somalia had led to more people becoming internally displaced and others moving into refugee camps across the border in Kenya, as food and water scarcity worsen.

“People are moving due to the deteriorating living conditions and a lack of a way to make a living. Families are said to be selling their assets, including houses and land, to get by and to facilitate their movement to the refugee camps in Kenya,” she told reporters following a visit to the country.

An estimated 2.4 million people – 32 per cent of the country’s 7.2 million people – are in need of relief aid as a result of drought and two decades of conflict.


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