The United Nations relief workers and other humanitarian agencies are struggling to maintain a presence in volatile Somalia, against worsening threats to aid workers and the lack of funding to scale up livelihood projects for the country, the UN said.
The UN humanitarian operations in Somalia is grossly under-funded and, with aid workers facing physical threats to their own survival, the UN agencies see little hope of the humanitarian crisis easing off this year with factors promoting the fighting still rising.
Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Relief Coordinator for Somalia, said on Thursday all information available to the UN indicate that the key factors driving the humanitarian crisis would continue to worsen over the coming months.
“There is an urgent need to scale up integrated emergency livelihood and humanitarian assistance. Currently, humanitarian access is insufficient to meet the growing humanitarian needs and humanitarian agencies are struggling to maintain a presence,” he said.
United Nations Special Humanitarian Envoy Abdul Aziz Arrukban said on Thursday that the suffering of the Somalia people could be alleviated with a little more financing from the international community, moreso from the Muslim states across the world.
The UN appealed for US$700 million to enable it finance various livelihood enhancement projects in Somalia,but donor apathy in Somalia appears to have worsened and the UN was able to get just US$3 million of the money it sought for its operations.
In a passionate appeal, the UN relief envoy said the rest of the world must urgently speed up their support to Somalia, in the run up to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“We need to scale up and speed up our support. My personal conviction and also our collective conscience tell us to take action,” he told a news conference in Nairobi, on arrival from Somalia.
UN officials said even though pledges have been made to assist the people of Somalia, those pledges have not translated into action on the ground.
“The support for Somalia is not able to be translated to security on the ground. We need physical measures on the ground. Currently, we are getting only 1% of the money we asked for in our emergency appeal,” Bowden said.
He said the Somalia operation was grossly underfunded, especially given that the operation currently requires the use of air services to distribute food to about 3.2 million people in need of emergency assistance in Somalia.
“We are talking about an operation that needs money. We are on a shoe-string budget, the high cost of security is worsened by the high need to provide air services,” Bowden said.
The UN official denied the high cost of security could be a result of the payouts to militias to provide security to the UN officers on the ground, saying the UN policy was clear on the payment of ransom to armed groups.
“We are facing a variety of security problems, the abductions of UN humanitarian workers…it is a commercial crime, given the amount of ransom. We have had threats against the international staff, it is very difficult for us to carry out these operations,” the official said.
He said the crisis was particularly difficult in Kismayo, where a recent fighting to control the port killed close to 70 people, as well as in central Somalia. Panapress .