December 14th, 2006 06:15 EST
Somalia: UN launches $237 million appeal for 1.8 million hungry, displaced people
The United Nations today launched a $237-million humanitarian appeal for Somalia for 2007 to alleviate the suffering of 1.8 million people, including 1.4 million chronically hungry and 400,000 internally displaced, as the war-torn country reels from the triple blow of continued fighting, drought and devastating floods.
“The humanitarian needs inside the country remain critical but have recently worsened,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Eric Laroche said in Nairobi, neighbouring Kenya.
“The work and efforts of humanitarian organizations play a vital role in providing life-saving activities. A generous response from the international donor community will ensure an integrated approach by humanitarian organizations in meeting needs as well as strengthening the capacity of Somalia’s most vulnerable communities,” he added.
Of the 1.4 million hungry, 1.1 million live in southern and central regions, the most underserved in terms of humanitarian aid. In 2007 the humanitarian community will focus on encouraging more international organizations to be present there.
The 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), who own few assets, are subject to multiple human rights violations, and the humanitarian community is committed to making a difference in their lives, particularly in Mogadishu, the capital, where an estimated quarter of a million are currently unable to access sustained aid or protection.
Somalia’s people live in extremely poor and underdeveloped conditions. Livelihoods are broadly based on subsistence farming and pastoralism with limited opportunity to earn wages. Infant, child and maternal mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world. One in four children dies before reaching the age of five and some 1,600 women die for every 100,000 live births.
The country, without a functioning national government since President Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime was toppled in 1991, has one of the lowest primary school enrolment rates in the world and average life expectancy in Somalia is estimated at 48 years.
The 2007 Appeal is being launched at a time when Somalia faces widespread flooding that has already affected an estimated 454,500 people.
“To make things worse, Somalia now faces the possibility of war,” Mr. Laroche warned, referring to the increased fighting between calling on the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), based in the provincial city of Baidoa, and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which has gradually expanded its control since seizing Mogadishu in June.
“The international community must do what it can to avert such a scenario and to preserve a ‘humanitarian space’ respecting the human dignity of Somalis by ensuring access to the most needed basic services,” he added.