The Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia Peter de Clercq heard first-hand accounts of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in South West state today during an assessment tour of the administrative capital of Baidoa.
Mr. de Clercq visited a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the city’s main hospital to meet with victims of a prolonged dry spell that has produced severe water shortages and acute food insecurity.
An estimated five million Somalis are in need of food aid after sparse rains triggered drought in much of the country. In South West state alone, nearly 820,000 people are in dire need of urgent humanitarian support, according to a newly released report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“Five million people in this country, which is 40 per cent of the population, are currently in need of food aid because they don’t have enough to eat,” said Mr. de Clercq.
“This is as a result of the fourth consecutive drought season, and it is going to take another four months before the next rainy season,” he added.
He expressed concern that more people may abandon their homes for IDP camps in the state capital in their search of food.
“The people need assistance to help them through the season and then hope there is going to be assistance for them to restart their lives. That is going to be much more difficult because this is humanitarian aid, short-term aid, but in the long term, people need to get a livelihood again,” he stated.
Children, women and IDPs have been hardest hit by the humanitarian crisis. The situation in Baidoa has been exacerbated by an outbreak of cholera, which has claimed 11 lives in the past three weeks alone.
Quresha Abdi Ali, a mother of seven, told Mr. de Clercq and members of his delegation that she lost twelve members of her extended family to hunger.
“I came from Buula Iir village to escape the harsh conditions there. We don’t have food, water or clothes. Our farms are barren, our livestock are dead, our men cannot find work,” she explained.
Bay region Governor Rashid Abdullahi Mohamed disclosed that an estimated 3,000 families from neighbouring villages have moved to the administrative capital of the South West state to escape the harsh conditions in their homes.
“The situation is dire, people desperately need support and we appeal to well wishers to step in and offer help to needy populations here,” said Governor Mohamed.
The President of the Interim South West Administration (ISWA), Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, echoed that call for assistance.
“We are in an emergency situation. The effects of the drought are evident, people are struggling with poor health, starvation and insecurity,” he said.
The ISWA president accused al-Shabaab militants of impeding the delivery of humanitarian assistance to drought victims. He called on the federal government of Somalia and the international community to expedite the opening and securing of main supply routes, especially the 243-kilometer Baidoa-Mogadishu road, to facilitate the transportation of humanitarian supplies.