Secretary-General, in Message to Horn of Africa Summit, Calls Unfolding Situation in Drought-Hit Region ‘a Failure of Resilience’

9 September 2011

Secretary-General, in Message to Horn of Africa Summit, Calls Unfolding Situation in Drought-Hit Region ‘a Failure of Resilience’

9 September 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, in Message to Horn of Africa Summit, Calls Unfolding Situation

in Drought-Hit Region ‘a Failure of Resilience’

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, delivered by Sahle-Work Zewde, Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi, to the Horn of Africa Summit being held there today, 9 September:

I commend the Government of Kenya for convening this Summit at this critical time.  The drought in the Horn of Africa is arguably the worst in recent history.  More than 13 million people are in need of emergency assistance, as well as agriculture and livelihood interventions.

Hundreds of people, mostly Somalis, are dying every day.  Most of them are children, as they are the first to be affected by malnutrition and hunger.  Hundreds of thousands have fled, and the refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are overflowing.  I want to recognize Kenya and Ethiopia for their generosity in hosting large numbers of refugees, even as they cope with their own responses to the crisis.

What we see unfolding across the Horn of Africa is a failure of resilience.  Populations have been weakened by repeated cycles of drought, shock and, at times, conflict.  Their support structures and mechanisms have been wiped away; there is no buffer.  Climate has been a major factor; when combined with conflict and declining resources, the result is deadly.

This Summit signals a firm resolve not to allow another famine in the region.  It is not an option to just “blame the rain”.  Adaptation and risk reduction must be our priorities going forward.  Two weeks ago, a pledging conference hosted by the African Union demonstrated the organization’s determination to improve the lives of the region’s people.  I also commend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for raising funds for Somalia.  The United Nations, for its part, will hold a mini-summit on the Horn of Africa crisis later this month on the margins of the General Assembly session.

A lot has been done, but more is needed.  We need to work on two levels:  first, maintaining the response to the humanitarian crisis; and second, undertaking more long-term efforts to ensure that populations will not be at risk when the rains fail.

This dual approach has proved successful in averting human suffering.  Throughout the region, most notably in Kenya and Ethiopia, there are examples of programmes that have kept a severe drought from becoming an emergency.  This is a profound achievement which should be acknowledged.

On the other end of the spectrum is Somalia, the worst-affected country in the region, where a combination of drought, inflation, poor governance and conflict has been catastrophic.  We are all painfully aware that aid cannot reach its intended beneficiaries in the absence of political stability and security.  Military gains made by Transitional Federal Government forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are providing some degree of security.  In another encouraging step, the recently concluded Mogadishu Consultative Meeting endorsed a road map focusing on security, a constitution-making process, good governance, parliamentary reform and reconciliation.

Across the Horn, a bold approach is needed that ensures both recovery and resilience while taking into account the environment, the economics of pastoral and nomadic livelihoods, population pressure, equity in development spending, good governance and the need to avoid dependency.  Spending on risk reduction recoups its investment many times over.

I urge all partners to fully fund the emergency response.  At the same time, there is an overwhelming need to invest in climate-proofed infrastructure, sustainable livelihoods, education and health services.  By turning a crisis into an opportunity, the countries of the region, together with the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the United Nations and other development partners, can build on lessons learned, turn the page, and put famine where it belongs — in the history books.

Thank you for focusing high-level attention on a crisis that is still raging and which we must not allow to fade from the global consciousness.  Please accept my best wishes for a successful Summit.

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