The top United Nations humanitarian official today called for a concerted response to the crisis in Somalia, where a worsening drought has led to severe shortages of water, food and pasture, and swelled the number of people in need of assistance to 2.4 million.
Our actions in the next few months are critical, " said Valerie Amos, on her first official visit to Somalia as the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Somalia is teetering on the brink of a much larger crisis if the next rains, due in April, fail. We, the Government, the aid community, authorities in areas with populations in need must act now to ensure we can respond to any downturn both fast and strategically, " she said.
Ms. Amos travelled to city of Garowe, the capital of the self-declared autonomous administrative region of Puntland in the north-east, where she met with Government officials, including the president, to discuss humanitarian concerns and priorities.
She then went to the town of Galkacyo, the capital of the Mudug region, where she met a local committee set up to respond to the growing needs of the drought-affected communities.
Malnutrition rates among children, already above emergency levels in Somalia, are rising as milk has become scarce with herders having migrated with their livestock in search of pasture, water and food. One in four children in southern Somalia is acutely malnourished, according to a recent assessment.
Ms. Amos also visited the Halabokad settlement for internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the outskirts of Galkacyo, one of the few IDP settlements where the residents own the land, the result of a local initiative started in April last year.
An estimated 1.46 million people in Somalia have been internally displaced due to two decades of conflict, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Over the past month, at least 20,000 more people have left their homes in search of water.