Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Humanitarian appeal

Speach of Somali ambassador to Kenya Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nur

Today (30 June)– and at midnight – we will raise the Somali flag and celebrate Somalia’s brave search for nationhood.

In the creation of the Republic of Somalia, our people proudly stood up and joined the family of African nations. It was unimaginable happiness to break the colonial change as our African brothers did. However it is a human desire to aim high and succeed and sometimes fail as we are not different.

Today Somalia is facing a rocky road to convalesce its position as a sovereign state with confidence in its future, stable and secure.

As that political journey is made, I fear that the minds of most of the Somali people are focused on much more immediate concerns. The daily quest for the basics of existence is creating a barrier to Somali political stability and is endangering the lives of millions here on the continent of Africa.

Food, clean water and shelter are basics that many of us can take for granted. In Somalia, the story is different – and getting worse by the day. When mothers are not worrying about their offspring being recruited by the extremists Al Shabaab, they spend too much time worrying about where the next meal will come from.

With little infrastructure and support everyone knows that without international humanitarian support the plight of the Somali people would be much worse. But today the threat is grave and the danger imminent.

Coinciding with ongoing conflict today’s Somalia is the site of a tragic series of coincidences. An ongoing and severe drought, rising regional food prices, declining locally produced staple foods and reductions in the delivery of emergency food aid have all come together - threatening to turn a crisis into a catastrophe.

Some say this is not even imminent; an NGO Head operating in Lower Shabelle doesn’t say we are on the verge of a humanitarian disaster but we already in the middle of it.

Consecutive poor rainy seasons have made this year the driest one in Somalia since 1950. Last year’sdeyr rainfall from October to December was well below normal. The effect of La Nina is having its toll still. Most worryingly the UN fear that the rainfall situation will not improve until next year.

In recent days, we have seen and heard through the media about some of the tragic symptom of this growing crisis. Save the Children declared that unprecedented numbers are fleeing across the border into Kenya. About 1,300 people are arriving every day in Dadaab refugee camp. They are fleeing one of the worst droughts in generations as well as the ongoing conflict. We are very grateful for the Kenyan Government for allowing Somali Refugee temporarily stay at Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, and the UN agencies and donor communities for helping the Somali refugees, but since more refugees are arriving, we appeal to them to increase the humanitarian assistance.

Since December 2010, the average daily cost of food for Somali families has increased between by 20% percent, with areas in the south reporting increases of almost 40 percent. For people already suffering extreme poverty they have no cushion which means they can handle these sorts of increases.

Staple foodstuffs are becoming out of the reach of too many Somalis. Current maize prices in Somalia are now back at the of the food price crisis of 2008. Red sorghum is at record levels and well above the levels of that well-publicised crisis. Back then the world’s attention was focused on the problem.

Today, I am horrified that the world’s attention seems to be absent.

The figures confirm a truly disturbing story. According to the UN’s FAO from January to April 2011, maize prices have risen by 80% in Marka market, the main maize producing southern region of Lower Shabelle, while sorghum prices increased by 50% in Baidoa market, Bay region, located in the Sorghum Belt. In the capital city Mogadishu, prices of maize and sorghum increased over the same period by 70% and 60% respectively.

The World Food Programme have admitted that they’re only able to feed just two thirds of the one million people that need to be fed but they have had to cut the size of the rations. This means the amount of food being given out is only 33% of what should be given out.

We are now in a position to help. The courageous sacrifice of the African Union troops must be met with action from the international agencies. TFG and AMISOM soldiers now control most of Mogadishu city. For that reason of the growing safe zone displaced people are flooding in.

It is thought that some 80% of the city’s population are now in this area. That is an area where international agencies can and should operate. And those people who are escaping the clutches of the brutal regime of the extremists are crying out for help.

AMISOM strives to deliver its mandate to provide emergency humanitarian support but the millions affected in Somalia require a comprehensive, full scale response from those agencies that are best-placed to deliver food, water and shelter to the people on the ground.

At present, I call upon to stand up and applaud the work of the African Union troops as I call on you to recognise the need for action, which is the sole reason that I want you to stand up and welcome the launch today of the Embassy of Somalia Emergency Drought Appeal.

We must act today to stop tomorrow’s catastrophe. Two years ago I saw with my own eyes the plight of Somali people in Dhobley who had been displaced by the conflict and the destruction of their livelihoods, at the same time I noticed the tales of endurance and suffering.

Back then after a similar appeal for support, I had led a team to that southern Somali town that delivered some 20 tonnes of emergency food aid to the people there.

I witnessed the immediate effect on the people there. It was gratifying not only for me to be able to see such a response but also immensely rewarding for all the people who had been so generous in their contributions.

I ask you now, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, to re-double your efforts and respond to the call to support the people of Somalia.

And the Somali diaspora must have an important role here. The message must be carried far and wide. I ask you to fill the airwaves with this call for support. I know that, though many Somalis have been forced to leave their home land, their home has not left their heart. This Appeal is a way in which Somalis around the world can know that they are giving responsibly, giving to a fund that will have a real, immediate impact on the ground.

Today, I stand in front of you to tell you that real lives are vanishing completely. In Middle and Lower Shabelle, in Qoryoley, Kurtunwarey ,Sablale and other areas through out Somalia our estimate is that over 10,000 families – of men, women and children - have been seriously affected by the current drought. Those remaining in the area are the ones who cannot even afford transport to Mogadishu. Most of those who are dying are children, the elderly, and lactating and pregnant mothers.

As we stand here and celebrate Independence, we must stand by the Somali people. The immediate future for the Somali people is bleak because all too many factors outside their control are coming together to deliver a catastrophe to the Somali people.

Giving to this Emergency Drought Appeal will have a real impact to people on the ground. Now is the time to make sure 2011 is not remembered as the year of tragedy in Somalia. We have a duty to avert the impending calamity. We all have an opportunity to stand by the Somali people - and we must. I thank you all.