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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

UN chief says more needs to be done urgently in Horn of Africa

13th August 2011
United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon has stressed that the humanitarian crisis currently facing people in the East and Horn of Africa needs urgent international intervention.

“You are all aware that people across the Horn of Africa are starving. A catastrophic combination of conflicts, high food prices and drought has left more than 11 million people in desperate needs,” the Secretary General said in a statement issued yesterday by the UN Department of Public Information.

On Thursday, the Secretary General had conversations by telephone with Irish musician and humanitarian activist Bono to discuss the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa.

He suggested the need to galvanise fund-raising efforts and improve access for humanitarian workers to deliver aid in Somalia and the importance of supporting political dialogue in Somalia.

The Secretary General’s Special Representative in Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, and the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, briefed the Security Council on Wednesday on the food situation in the area.

Mahiga noted that the recent withdrawal of the Al-Shabaab insurgent group from Mogadishu was a significant event that could expedite political gains as well as the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Bragg warned that the peak of the crisis was still to come given the high levels of acute malnutrition and under-5 mortality, in combination with expected increases in local cereal prices and a below-average rainy season harvest.

She added that assistance needs would likely continue for the rest of this year, if not longer.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, led a humanitarian mission to Mogadishu earlier this month to update the Prime Minister and the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, aiming at scaling up humanitarian operations in Southern Somalia.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has made nine airlifts to Mombasa, Kenya, carrying 800 metric tons of High Energy Biscuits, enough to feed 1.6 million people for a day.

The biscuits are being pre-positioned for onward delivery to vulnerable people throughout the Horn of Africa.

Over the next two months, WFP plans to deliver 2,000 metric tons of high-nutrient Plumpy Sup, 2,000 metric tons of High Energy Biscuits, and up to 10,000 metric tons of a fortified blend of corn and soya-based food by air and road to Somalia.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the high risk of disease outbreaks in drought-affected areas in the Horn of Africa. There has been a suspected measles outbreak in the Dollo Ado camps in Ethiopia.

WHO and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, have been working to screen, increase surveillance and raise awareness among refugees. WHO also says that, in Somalia, there are confirmed cholera outbreaks in Mogadishu, and the Bay, Mudug and Lower Shabelle regions.

So far the drought crisis across the Horn of Africa – in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has left more than 12.4 million people in desperate need and claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people (half of them younger than 5), and the situation continues to worsen.

The United Nations has declared that famine now exists in five areas in Somalia – the capital Mogadishu, the Afgoye corridor outside of the capital, the Middle Shabelle region, Lower Shabelle, and the southern Bakool region.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that the appeal for funds to respond to the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa is still only 46 per cent funded with an additional USD 1.4 billion still required to cover unmet needs.

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