United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres travelled from New York via Kenya to Somalia, were he arrived on Tuesday morning, 7 March, to highlight the ongoing risk of famine and cholera faced by millions in the country.
The Secretary-General began his visit with a meeting with the newly elected President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo, at Mogadishu airport.
He told media that he wanted to make this his first field visit as Secretary-General to express his solidarity with the Somali people at this difficult time. At a moment when more than half of the country’s population were in need of humanitarian assistance and 300,000 children acutely malnourished, he made a strong appeal for support from the international community.
Speaking alongside President Farmajo, the Secretary-General stressed that there was a chance to avoid the worst and avoid a situation like the one in 2011 when hundreds of thousands of people perished. He also underscored that it was a time of hope in Somalia, with a new Government with a strong commitment to enhance security and the capacity of the Government to provide effective services to the population.
Mr. Guterres then visited the Liiban internally displaced persons settlement, created less than a month earlier to accommodate people from the surrounding areas affected by the drought. For over an hour, the Secretary-General walked through the camp and listened to the stories of dozens of families who had come to Baidoa to seek food and water. Some had recently resettled from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya only to be forced to move again because of the drought. All told, the Baidoa area accommodated an estimated 42,000 internally displaced people.
The majority of the people displaced by the drought were agro-pastoralists who had lost all sources of livelihoods, including livestock and crops. They had not had any harvest from the crops in the last three planting seasons due to the prolonged drought. The newly displaced were joining other families displaced by conflict who had been in settlements in Baidoa for a number of years. Some of these families had been resettled in Somalia from the Dadaab refugee camp in 2016.
Following the visit to the camp, the Secretary-General went to Bay Regional Hospital, a medical facility created in 1936, and toured the cholera wards there. The cholera treatment centre at the hospital, run by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Committee for the Red Cross, had seen a recent spike in cholera cases due to the drought.
The Secretary-General left Baidoa later on Tuesday afternoon and returned to Nairobi, Kenya.