SOMALIA PRESIDENT DECLARES DROUGHT A NATIONAL DISASTER

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo described the drought facing more than six million Somalis today as a “national disaster” and appealed to the international community to help raise  $825 million to prevent the crisis from deteriorating into a famine during the first half of this year.

Addressing a high-level roundtable meeting on the drought response in Somalia, the President said the drought had depleted livestock which represent the only asset many Somali people have.

“Those of us gathered here today can neither make the rain come nor provide adequate water to keep livestock alive. But we can respond more effectively and we must do so now simply because the Somali nation is threatened with famine”, President Farmaajo told the roundtable meeting, which included officials from the United Nations, the African Union, diplomats, federal government cabinet ministers, regional state presidents and representatives of civil society, communities of faith and the private sector.

He pledged to use all available platforms in the coming weeks and months to highlight the drought situation, including a forthcoming High-Level Partnership meeting on Somalia scheduled to be held in London in May.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, said the international community must respond urgently to the drought in Somalia.

“The implications of this declaration would include enforcing tax exemption on the import of critical humanitarian supplies that still attract any form of taxes, temporary lifting of taxes and levies on NGOS to enable them to scale up the delivery of humanitarian assistance, strengthening security at critical areas of humanitarian delivery including the removal of illegal roadblocks, and firm measures to prevent and penalize diversion of humanitarian assistance”, he added.

Mr. de Clercq said the donor community had an opportunity to prevent what happened in Somalia six years ago when the country was faced with a similar drought that triggered a devastating famine which killed over 260,000 people.

Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Omar Arteh said at least 60 percent of livestock in the country had been wiped out by the ongoing drought.

Mr. Arteh, who is also serving as the chairperson of the National Drought Response Committee, said the efforts by Somalis to address the crisis were not enough and urged the international community to support local efforts aimed at mitigating the effects of the drought.

“We need to act decisively. We need to act massively, and we need to act now if we are to prevent a repeat of the awful scenes of 2011 and 2012 when more than a quarter of a million people died”, the Deputy Prime Minister said.

His words were echoed by the President of HirShabelle state, Ali Abdullahi Osoble, who said people in the country needed food, water, medicine and shelter.

The Mayor of Mogadishu, Yusuf Hussein Jimale, said the city had not been spared the effects of drought, citing data indicating that about 2,000 families had moved into camps for internally displaced persons.

More than $400 million has been pledged by donors to support an escalation of the drought response, and the Humanitarian Coordinator urged donors to expedite disbursement of these funds to allow partners to scale up their work.

According to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network that are managed by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, the number of Somalis in need of assistance has risen sharply in recent months, from an estimated 5 million in September 2016 to over 6.2 million today. The figure represents more than half of Somalia’s entire population. The number of Somalis facing “crisis” and “emergency” conditions of food insecurity has also risen from 1.1 million six months ago to a projected 3 million this year.

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