Somalis ‘Simply Cannot Wait Any Longer’ for International Support, in Midst of Deadly Drought, Nascent Political Gains, Security Council Told

10 August 2011

Somalis ‘Simply Cannot Wait Any Longer’ for International Support, in Midst of Deadly Drought, Nascent Political Gains, Security Council Told

10 August 2011
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6599th Meeting (AM)

Somalis ‘Simply Cannot Wait Any Longer’ for International Support, in Midst


of Deadly Drought, Nascent Political Gains, Security Council Told


Envoy Says Sudden Withdrawal of Insurgents from Capital Opens Up Opportunities

Well Ahead of Schedule; Deputy Relief Coordinator Says ‘We Cannot Let Somalis Down’

A complex amalgam in Somalia of accelerated political progress and the unexpected withdrawal of insurgents from the capital — amid a deadly famine devastating large swaths of the country — made increased international support to the nation urgent at this critical time, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.

“This is an extraordinary moment for Somalia,” Augustine Mahiga said via video teleconference from Mogadishu.  “Now is the time for the international community to demonstrate its commitment,” he said, adding: “The Somali people simply cannot wait any longer.”  Describing the situation in the political and security sectors, he was joined by Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, who briefed on the food crisis.

In the political arena, the signing of the Kampala Accord on 9 June “has set us on a new trajectory in the peace process”, Mr. Mahiga said.  The Accord, signed by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of the Transitional Federal Government and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament, ended five months of political stalemate on the way forward, providing for elections in one year and establishing a road map with benchmarks, timelines and compliance mechanisms for implementing priority tasks.

He was further encouraged by implementation of the Accord so far, with former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed resigning ahead of schedule and his successor, Abdiweli Mohamed, overwhelmingly endorsed by Parliament in a timely manner.  The Parliament itself had endorsed the Accord on 11 July, and 10 days later, the new Prime Minister had appointed a Cabinet of 18 ministers, following broad consultations.  The Parliament had approved the Cabinet within the agreed timeline as well.

The next major step was the adoption procedure for the road map, which would give the people of Somalia much-needed ownership of the process, he said.  The international community must be ready to provide support for that framework, he added, stressing that, at the same time, it would be made clear to the Transitional Federal Institutions that there would be consequences for non-compliance or obstruction of the blueprint. 

On security, the recent and unexpected withdrawal from Mogadishu of the extremist Al-Shabaab insurgent group had opened up considerable opportunities well ahead of schedule, he said, even though the group had described the retreat as a tactical manoeuvre.  In any case, the group had been compelled to retreat, and for that reason, he paid tribute to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  Before the withdrawal, earliest projections had foreseen Transitional Federal Institution control and stabilization of the capital city one year from now.

The immediate priority, he said, was to fill the vacuum created by Al‑Shabaab’s departure so as to not allow the warlords and their militia to fill the gap.  Basic administrative structures must be put in place as a matter of urgency.  In addition, the revival of economic activities in Mogadishu was critical, especially at the Bakara market, hitherto under the control of Al-Shabaab.

The United Nations Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) was adjusting to the quicker-than-expected changes, as the new situation allowed an expanded United Nations presence inside Somalia, rather than a “light footprint”, he said.  For that purpose, sped-up construction of permanent facilities to pave the way for the deployment of additional critical staff was needed, as was the creation of an additional force under AMISOM dedicated to provide protection and facilitate movement for United Nations staff in Mogadishu.

There was also an immediate imperative to augment AMISOM’s resources — in logistics, mobility, aviation and disposal of unexploded ordinance, he said.  As the Somali police deployed in the recently recovered areas, the deployment of AMISOM police should be expedited to support those efforts. 

Gaps remained, however, in the United Nations support package to AMISOM, he said, appealing to the Council to consider expanding that package to cover critical categories of self-sustainment.  In addition, he urged the Council to consider including the reimbursement for contingent-owned equipment, now five months in arrears, in the logistical support package funded through assessed contributions, as there were no resources available in the Trust Fund.

Finally, the Special Representative appealed to the international community to act swiftly to avert greater tragedy in the food crisis and to fund the approximately $1 billion needed through the consolidated appeals process.  He also urged all groups in Somalia to lay down their arms and allow aid agencies to access all Somalis in dire need of assistance.

Taking the floor in the Chamber, Ms. Bragg agreed that urgent action was needed.  Since the United Nations had declared a state of famine in two regions of Somalia over two weeks ago, the situation had worsened.  The famine threshold had been reached in three new areas of southern Somalia — Middle Shabelle, the Afgoye corridor internally displaced persons settlement and the Mogadishu internally displaced persons community.

“By the time I go to bed tonight, 13 people […] will have died,” she said, adding that that number was calculated from a population of only 10,000 — much lower than the actual number of people at risk.  Some 3.7 million people were in need of immediate, life-saving assistance, 2.8 million of whom were in south and central Somalia, and 1.25 million of whom were children.

Rates of both severe acute malnutrition and under-five mortality were very high, she said.  Additionally, the drought had generated displacement on a large scale.  An estimated 100,000 people had fled to Mogadishu over the past two months, and the overall number of internally displaced in Somalia was estimated at 1.5 million.  Refugees were also fleeing to Kenya at the rate of 1,500 persons per day.

“A massive multisectoral response is critical to prevent additional deaths and a total livelihood/social collapse,” she stressed.  Such a response would include both health interventions and the provision of food aid or therapeutic feeding, in particular as the start of the rainy season in October threatened to increase the risk of epidemic diseases.  Some progress had already been made; on 4 August, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) — the only organization allowed to conduct food distribution in areas controlled by Al-Shabaab — had announced the increase of its emergency operations in central and southern Somalia.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was boosting its supply pipeline to support the existing supplementary feeding and stabilization centres, she said.  Since 27 July, 97 tons of supplies had been airlifted to Mogadishu, Gedo and the Lower Juba regions to treat some 34,000 malnourished children under the age of 5 for one month.  Emergency measles and polio vaccine campaigns were under way, as were sanitation activities and water interventions.

She said that, in Mogadishu this week, an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) airlift carrying shelter material and emergency assistance packages had landed in Mogadishu for the first time in five years.  However, humanitarian operations in the capital remained complex, she said, and “the scaling up of activities is not a quick endeavour”.  Humanitarian actors were still assessing the implications of the withdrawal of Al-Shabaab.  The capacity of the local civilian administration in supporting the delivery of aid and ensuring the security of sites for the internally displaced remained weak.

On 8 August, she said, the Humanitarian Coordinator had met with the Prime Minister in Mogadishu together with various United Nations system actors to discuss the scale-up of the humanitarian programme and improving security for the internally displaced persons.  While the Prime Minister had assured that secure access to assistance delivery in the camps could be negotiated, technical support would be needed, Ms. Bragg reported.

Turning finally to the funding situation, she said humanitarian partners still required $560 million for life-saving assistance, as only half the appeal had been funded.  “The magnitude of human suffering in Somalia today demands more,” she stressed.  “Every day counts,” she said, adding: “We cannot let people down.”  The present situation was the “most severe food crisis emergency in the world right now”; it must be treated “with the urgency it demands”, she said.

The meeting was opened at 10:05 a.m. and was adjourned at 10:40 a.m.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.