GENEVA: (Xinhua) – A UN official on Tuesday said that a combination of early action by the government and the United Nations, a speedy response from international donors and a massive scaling-up of assistance have avoided a bad famine in Somalia.
George Conway, UN Development Program Country Director for Somalia, speaking by phone from Mogadishu to a press briefing here in Geneva that the drought occurred in 2017 was worse than that of 2011, when famine had killed 250,000 people, but “this time famine had been avoided through”.
At the beginning of 2017, the UN had issued a famine alert for Somalia and the president of the country had declared a national disaster. Since then, the Somalian government and its partners had been providing emergency assistance to 3 million people every month, he said.
The government had also been taking concrete steps to find ways to break the cycle of recurrent humanitarian emergencies and to take concerted action to prevent future drought situations turning into famines, the official added.
“Progress in the State- and institution-building agenda over the past five years, including more effective governance institutions and investment in stabilizing key regional capitals, had enabled a more robust response than had been possible in 2011,” he noted.
Nevertheless, the UN official said, the situation remained very serious for millions of Somalis following the failure of the rainy season for the fifth consecutive year.
An estimated 6.2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance, and the number of people considered to be living in pre-famine emergency conditions had increased this year from 80,000 people in January to 800,000 in December.
“During 2017, an additional 1 million people had been displaced due to drought and conflict, thereby doubling the number of internally displaced people in Somalia,” he said.
In response to questions from journalists, the UN official said that the humanitarian response requirement for Somalia for 2018 amounted to 1.5 billion US dollars, which was comparable to the amount that had been estimated for 2017