Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed: Help the Somali people

President urges the world to step up, highlighting the 2011 famine that killed 260,000 Somalis.

Somalia hunger
Acutely malnourished Sacdiyo Mohamed, nine-months-old, is treated at a hospital in Mogadishu this month [Mohamed Sheikh Nor/AP]

Somalia’s president said on Thursday almost half his country’s people are facing acute food shortages and about 15 percent are facing famine. He urged the world to help.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed told the UN Security Council by video link from Mogadishu that Somalis are proud and resilient and would be the last to ask for help, but drought has spawned a humanitarian crisis.

“We cannot forget that the last time Somalia was blighted by starvation, in 2011, no fewer than 260,000 people died,” Mohamed said. “The crisis also risks undermining the hard-won political and security progress that has been made.”

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The United Nations said on Wednesday that the $864m UN humanitarian appeal for Somalia is only 31 percent funded.

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The country is facing its third famine in 25 years and more than six million people – half the population – need help.

Mohamed’s inauguration as president in February was a key step towards establishing Somalia’s first fully functioning central government in a quarter-century. Somalia began to fall apart in 1991 when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre, and then turned on each other.

Years of conflict and attacks by the al-Shabab group, along with famine, shattered the Horn of Africa country of some 12 million people.

Michael Keating, the UN envoy for Somalia, told the council the country “is experiencing a moment of both tragedy and hope” – tragedy because of the threat of famine and hope because the recent electoral process “has created momentum for fresh political engagement among Somalis”.

This week’s announcement of a cabinet with six women was the latest step forward, he said.

Keating said nearly three million Somalis, mainly women and children, “require immediate life-saving support,” but compared with 2011, “the scope for responding to the crisis is greater”.

Famine ‘largest humanitarian crisis in history of UN’

President Mohamed, who recently declared the drought a national disaster, said he was “truly saddened” that some people were walking for kilometres in search of food and water, and many have fled to urban centres in search of support, “which our government is desperately trying to provide with assistance of the international community”.

“Many people’s livelihood, especially livestock, have perished,” he said.

Mohamed said the humanitarian response is “challenging” in some places because of insecurity caused by al-Shabab.

But he said the group “has been weakened substantially” by military action undertaken by Somali and African Union forces, and “we are determined to defeat al-Shabab”.

The president asked the UN Security Council to help rebuild the national army so it can take over security, and he called on members to work on a plan to lift the arms embargo against the country.

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Source: AP