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Don’t forget Somalia, UN official urges world community
Friday, April 06, 2012
Qatar and other countries in the Gulf region will play an essential role in the establishment of a safe, secure and sustainable future for Somalia, according to a visiting official, who explained that the country needs close to $100mn to maintain humanitarian efforts for the next three months.
The UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden is in Qatar for the launch of UN’s Consolidated Appeals for the country and Sudan, which is encouraging governments and organisations in the region to continue to support ongoing humanitarian efforts in both countries.
“The focus has drifted away from the crisis in Somalia at the moment, and we want to keep attention on the situation in the country to ensure that the world does not forget about it,” he said.
“Qatar is important along with the other GCC states – in fact Saudi Arabia was the biggest donor to Somalia last year with Qatar and Kuwait also giving very generously,” he added.
Bowden explained that Somalia has received $1.3bn of aid over the past year, with $800mn coming through the UN and $500mn from outside.
While he noted that the situation in the country is better overall, there are still many problems which need urgent attention, with millions of displaced persons and others at risk of high levels of mortality and the spread of disease.
Earlier this week, the country was hit by a suicide bomb attack targeting a number of the country’s sporting officials at the national theatre.
Bowden said that the attack signified the way that Shebaab has modified its strategies to continue to disrupt the country as much as possible following its tactical withdrawal.
“There has been a steady increase in asymmetric warfare,” he said, adding this is currently being aimed at political targets, but what I am concerned about is that it doesn’t turn to humanitarian targets.”
Although Bowden is not involved in the political situation in the country, he explained that the UN has played an essential role in highlighting the humanitarian challenges facing the people there and delivering aid to people desperate for assistance.
“We have to recognise that around 50% of the country is not really in conflict and many areas are stable,” he said, adding “the political process is moving forward towards a federal solution which is the only way to achieve stability to the core in Somalia.”
“When a country has been at war for 20 years, it will take more than an overnight change to achieve stability – progress is there but it requires people to be patient,” he added.
Bowden admitted that a recent evaluation criticised the UN for delays in delivering aid, but said that the report’s findings indicated that once it reached people, assistance had proved invaluable in helping them, and the UN had also worked to open hospitals and other services essential to providing lifesaving services.
“If the UN had not been in Somalia, then the world would have been unaware of the people’s suffering,” he said, adding “the UN’s role is also to help Somalia find a more stable political model – it is not an easy process but it does provide advice and assistance.”
To continue providing essential services to deal with malnutrition and other immediate threats over the next three months, Bowden said that the UN need $97mn of aid.
Looking to the long term, he said Somalia requires a major contribution in the agricultural sector to help restore people’s livelihoods in the country.
With challenging weather conditions in Somalia, poor harvests and the spread of disease are seasonal threats that the nation’s people must contest each year and it is these effects which must be dealt with in the long run, believes Bowden.
“We have a long term strategy and will be here for a number of years,” he said, adding “there are 1.4mn displaced people who are dependent on external assistance.” However, he expressed his hope that the UN could complete its critical humanitarian work in Somalia by October of next year.
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