Somalia: eight warnings of catastrophe so far, and still no action

Ed Pomfret

Blog post by Ed Pomfret

Oxfam International, Somalia Campaign Manager
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Early warnings need to result in early action in Somalia

Last week marked three years since the UN declared famine in Somalia. The catastrophe facing the Somali people three years ago ended in at least 260,000 people dying, half of them children.

In May this year, 26 organisations came together to call for the world to remember Somalia. The country faces a constant battle against apathy with the international community managing to forget about the fact that nearly 3 million people – a third of the population - are in severe crisis

The UN also raised the alarm with Somalia’s UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator highlighting the huge funding gap we face. The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Valerie Amos also addressed the UN Security Council to highlight how fragile and worrying the situation in Somalia is. 

At that stage, the common appeal for humanitarian funds for Somalia was only 19% funded. In the past few weeks we have seen more money come through and the appeal now stands at 27%. Although this is a good step forward, there is still a huge funding gap and the UN has also raised concerns that life saving programs are at risk of closing. This will lead to an increase in preventable deaths, unless major donors step up and take responsibility to save lives in Somalia.

Action is possible and urgent

Now 28 NGOs have again come together to demonstrate what needs to happen in Somalia. The briefing “Risk of Relapse: Call to Action” highlights the sort of activities needed in the next three to six weeks and the next three to six months, in sectors such as healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition and other areas. They may seem like minor solutions like provision of diesel to river based communities to support crop production, or cash for training on nutrition, but together they add up to a package of that can prevent people from falling into extreme need. 

This briefing along with the UN’s combined response plan, provide a plan for action and how much is needed to deliver for people. There are constant concerns about security and fear of aid diversion in Somalia, but these must not be used as excuses for inaction. The fact is these agencies working on the ground continue to reach people in need and aid gets to those who need it. We are able to tackle the crisis. 

We have now had eight early warnings of a worsening emergency in Somalia. In the run up to the Somalia famine in 2011, we had 16 such warnings. We have shown today that action is possible and urgent. This all adds up to donors needing to put their hands in their pockets immediately to divert us from the path to catastrophe.

Related links

Report: Risk of Relapse: Somalia Risk Alert

Photo gallery: Somalia: a different perspective

Oxfam's work in Somalia