London

11 May 2017

Secretary-General’s remarks at event on response to the humanitarian crisis in Somalia, London Somalia Conference [as delivered]

Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Just over two months ago, I travelled to Mogadishu and Baidoa to spotlight the humanitarian crisis in Somalia.
 
I chose this for my first visit as Secretary-General to the field because I remember too well the tragic situation in 2011. I could never forget the devastation, displacement, drought, famine and desperation.
 
I have seen it as High Commissioner for Refugees, I was inside Somalia and assisting people in Dadaab in Kenya and in Dollo Ado in Ethiopia in really dramatic circumstances. And if there is an image that I will never forget in my life it is [the one] of children dying already, where they could [have been] assisted because they just arrived too late.
 
I went back in March to ask people whether they are getting the assistance they need. And I appealed for international aid to avert the worst.
 
Somalia now hangs in the balance between peril and potential.
 
Here in London, we can tip the scales from danger to safety.
 
Political stability is gradually gaining ground. Somalia has increased its capacity to govern. The foundations for improved stability are in place. But all these gains that the President and the Government have managed are fragile.
 
We need investments that preserve progress while urgently addressing the growing food insecurity crisis affecting millions of Somalis.
 
Their lives have been torn apart by a deadly combination of chronic drought, endemic poverty and fragility, combined with displacement, ongoing instability as well as violations of humanitarian and human rights law in the context of the terrorist attacks that we are all aware of.
 
This crisis has left 6.2 million severely food insecure. 439,000 are at risk of famine. 275,000 malnourished children are at risk of starvation. 
 
The lean season is coming. Hunger conditions are expected to worsen over coming months. In areas where the rain failed, there may be no crops at all.
 
People who flee their homes, both internally and across borders, are especially vulnerable also in relation to protection violations.
 
I am especially concerned about rampant gender-based violence, which mostly affects children, women and girls. They are already in peril – and intermittent violence, insecurity and human rights violations are making conditions even worse.
 
UN agencies and our partners have significantly scaled up assistance over the past few months. We are now reaching close to 2 million people out of the 5.5 million targeted, with food, cash transfers, nutrition treatment, health interventions, safe water and protection services.
 
The UN stands ready to redouble our efforts – but the environment is challenging and dangerous.
 
It is extremely difficult in some areas to access vulnerable people in need – and to make sure they have access assistance and services they are entitled to have.
 
I commend the Federal Government for prioritizing the drought response. I call on the Government and all other parties to the conflict to facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.
 
Donors have been generous. And I want to thank you for that.
 
But we need more – not only now but for the long-term. Needs are rising and we must reverse this. Your contributions will save lives and prevent famine.
 
But we have to act now to break the cycle of fragility and vulnerability in Somalia.
 
Donors will have to support efforts to shore up resilience and reduce needs over time. Development actors will have to expand into the areas of fragility and risk. Humanitarians and development partners are actively improving their coordination and will have to join forces to plan for collective outcomes that reduce vulnerability and lower the risk of a new crisis in the future.
 
Such a new way of working can make a measurable difference for the 6.2 million Somalis affected by crisis today – and for the generations to come.
 
The 2011 famine in Somalia killed 260,000 people – half of them children.
 
This is a stain on the conscience of humanity.
 
This time, we must save lives before it is too late.
 
Now is our chance to help the people of Somalia open a new chapter for their country and for our world.
 
Thank you very much.