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James Swan tells UN Security Council Somalia is facing a humanitarian catastrophe

Wednesday September 7, 2022

New York (HOL) - The UN's top envoy in Somalia, James Swan, briefed the Security Council for the first time since Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected President of Somalia.

In his five-minute address to the world body, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General said a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in Somalia.

"Somalia is facing a humanitarian catastrophe with some 7.8 million Somalis — nearly half of the country's estimated population — impacted by the worst drought in at least four decades, exacerbated by climate factors. With four consecutive failed rainy seasons, areas of the country face the risk of famine."

He added that the number of people reached with assistance has quadrupled since January, totalling 5.3 million.

Swan called on Somalia's friends for a further scale-up of aid, saying that the myriad of problems facing Somalia and a projected fifth failed rainy season has displaced women and children especially vulnerable.

The Special Representative urged Somali authorities to strengthen security at water points and food distribution sites to reduce the risk of sexual violence.

"I call on all parties in Somalia to facilitate humanitarian access. I call on all of Somalia's friends to urgently increase the needed funding."

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Martin Griffiths fears that "famine is at the door" in Somalia, with "concrete indications" that famine will occur later this year in the southern Bay region. Griffiths' announcement falls just short of a formal famine declaration in Somalia.  

The UN humanitarian chief predicted on Tuesday that at least $1 billion would be urgently needed to prevent famine in Somalia in the upcoming months and early next year.

James Swan told the Security Council that he welcomed President Mohamud's government's initiative of rapprochement with FMSs and regional countries, "even those countries with which relations were previously strained."

Swan said that Somalia's political climate in the aftermath of its protracted political elections earlier this year made it "more conducive to addressing key national priorities." According to Swan, the new government in Mogadishu is prioritizing security, justice, reconciliation, economic development, social development and foreign relations. 

However, Swan highlighted the lack of representation of women in parliamentary committees and cabinet positions and called on Somalia's leaders to ensure women are participating in government.

"Unfortunately, women remain under-represented in cabinet positions and parliamentary committees. Just 13 percent of cabinet members are women, and 21 percent of parliamentary committee members. I call again for Somali leaders to take further measures to ensure women's meaningful participation across institutions of government, as well as the inclusion of youth and historically marginalized groups."

The Security Council heard that defeating Al Shabaab has been ranked as the top national priority by the new Somali government due to Al-Shabaab's increased bravado. 

Swan condemned Al-Shabaab's recent activities, including a 36-hour hotel siege in Mogadishu and incursions into Ethiopia. He added that Somalia must scale up its efforts at raising forces as part of the planned phase-out of the Africa Union's peacekeeping mission in Somalia. 

"Effective Somali forces are key to the planned transition from ATMIS. I reiterate the need for the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the Federal Member States to collaborate closely to counter Al-Shabaab, guided by Somalia's regional and international human rights commitments."

Swan requested additional donor contributions for the Somali Security Forces Trust Fund and ATMIS salary stipends, which are experiencing a shortfall in funding.


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