Sunday, August 05, 2012
A donation of 16 million U.S. dollars by the Chinese government nearly one year ago towards humanitarian interventions in Somalia at the peak of the country’s devastating drought has paid off, a UN official said to Xinhua in a recent interview.
China responded to international appeal for assistance to save lives in Somalia as severe famine and insecurity worsened humanitarian crises in the country.
"The donation from China was very timely, it enabled us purchase 15,000 metric tons of food that was supplied to 2.2 million people in drought affected regions," the World Food Program (WFP) Country Representative, Somalia Stefano Porretti, told Xinhua in Nairobi.
China’s donation of 16 million dollars towards drought intervention in Somalia was channeled through WFP. Porretti said that vulnerable populations including women and children benefitted from Chinese assistance.
"We have managed to reduce malnutrition affecting mothers and children," Porretti revealed.
He stressed that China remains a strategic partner with the World Food Program in addressing humanitarian crises in the horn of Africa.
In July, an approach of seasonal nutritional assistance has been adopted by WFP to IDP (internally displaced persons) communities in the North and Central Regions of Somalia that experience lean periods.
Blanket Supplementary Feeding is being provided to all children under the age of 3 between harvests or when traditional diets of meat and milk are in short supply.
The children receive nutrient-dense ready-to-use supplementary food from China’s donation to ensure their continued health and growth.
Fatuma Abdi is a 30 years old mother living at Baringa Bossaso camp located in Bossaso, Puntland.
She is originally from Qalafo in Ethiopia.
She has been living in the IDP camp for three years now.
The reason she moved to the camp was because of recurrent drought in the region.
Their family is farmers but the continued droughts meant they lost all of their crops.
The reason she ended up here was that she has a brother living in Bossaso who sent her the bus fare to travel here.
Fatuma was standing in the queue for receiving the supplementary food at the distribution site at Baringa Bossaso IDP camp.
"I am here because of problems.
"One of the problems is drought that has hit our region," Fatuma said, "There was no rain.
"We are farmers and we heavily relied upon rain for our crops to grow."
But now her life has been improved here.
In May, she was even given a tin home but before that she lived in one of the makeshift huts.
Fadumo Abshir Geire works for Medicine Du Monde, a non-governmental organization operates aid assistance in Somalia.
Geire said the fund received from China helps a lot of people living in Bossaso to get food for daily life and to get nutrition for their children.
"If a country donates dollars, it donates a lot of Somalis displaced people living in Bossaso.
"You know they have nothing, some of them only eat one time a day and some of them they don’t eat at all."
"China is a reliable partner of WFP at all levels.
"There is room to extend this partnership to find long-lasting solution to crises in Somalia," said Porretti.
Liu Xuerong is an officer working for WFP, she was based in two challenging duty stations in Somalia, initially in Galkayo, the Central Region, and later in Mogadishu, the Capital, focusing the assistance to the central and southern regions.
Being a Chinese national and humanitarian worker of the UN World Food Program, Liu said she was "very happy and proud" to have the opportunity to serve the people in need in the horn of Africa country.
"When I saw the Chinese contribution particularly the bags with our national flag, I was very proud that the Chinese government has become one of the biggest donors to WFP," Liu said through an interview with Xinhua.
"I am happy that my mother country shoulders a big responsibility in humanitarian arena and has made joint efforts with the United Nations to fight hunger worldwide and have helped to lessen the suffering of millions of Somalis and save lives during the difficult times – the famine in particular," she said.
And Liu is most probably among the first Chinese nationals to step on the Somali soil in the last 20 years.
In her memory, when the local people saw her walking on the street or visiting the project sites, they were very excited and happy to approach her.
"They often told me how grateful they were to the Chinese government and its people for their generosity and kindness.
"More importantly they said how timely the Chinese assistance was during the famine."
According to Liu, the assistance through WFP also reminded Somali people of the roads constructed by the Chinese 30 years ago.
"Now everyone and each beneficiary family are aware that what they are eating (rice and maize) and the nutrients (plumpy doz) that treated their malnourished children are from their Chinese friends, " she said, they also speak highly about the quality of the food commodities donated by the Chinese government.
Even the Chinese donation paid off, both Porretti and Liu admitted that "there is still lot of work to do in Somalia."
The UN food agency is currently operating in the entire Somali except the dangerous zones controlled by Al-Shabaab militia.
"Our focus is on vulnerable people.
"Overall, we are assisting 15 million people affected by famine," Porretti told Xinhua.
He appealed to the Chinese government to back programs that aim to tackle food and water crises in Somalia for the long haul.
"China has skills in medicine and agriculture.
"Any assistance to boost agricultural production will offer long-term solution to hunger in Somalia," said Porretti.
The WFP is partnering with sister UN agencies, governments in the Horn of Africa and humanitarian organizations to roll out programs that deter occurrence of droughts in Somalia.
"Our future plans in Somalia is to reduce adverse effects of natural disasters like drought through a range of interventions that include water management, irrigation and school feeding programs," Porretti said.
A number of projects to boost water management for food production have been rolled out in the Northern and Southern parts of Somalia.
"FAO and UNICEF and a number of Non-governmental organizations are coordinating programs on improving water management to sustain food production," Porretti said.
He stressed that peace and stability is a critical component of drought mitigation in Somalia.
Porretti added that insecurity in areas controlled by Al-Shabaab militia has undermined drought mitigation efforts in Somalia.
The drought situation in most parts of Somalia has however stabilized against a backdrop of strategic interventions from the international community as well as sufficient rains last fall.
Porretti warned against complacency that might reverse gains so far achieved.
""Somalia is still a fragile region.
"Even if last year’s rains were adequate, there are some challenges in agro-pastoral areas," said Porretti.