"We reiterate the UAE’s support for the government and people of Somalia."
Wednesday April 19, 2017
By Caline Malek
A member of the UAE Red Crescent distributes aid to Syrian refugees in the northern Jordanian border town of Mafraq (March 2012) © Heba Aly/IRIN
DUBAI // A convoy from the Emirates Red Crescent was hit by a terrorist bomb while trying to deliver aid in drought-stricken Somalia on Wednesday.
The convoy was travelling in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, when the attack occurred, with the charity’s workers lucky to avoid injury.
After the blast, the UAE was quick to reaffirm its commitment to help the people of Somalia, hundreds of thousands of whom are facing famine.
"Such terrorist acts will not deter us from extending help and assistance to Somalia while it is undergoing a critical humanitarian situation," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said.
The drought has worsened in recent weeks, leading to 110 deaths last month alone, Somalia’s ambassador to the UAE said.
Abdulkadir Al Hatimi urged the international community to act fast to save lives.
"The drought has been really bad and everyone in Somalia is suffering," Mr Al Hatimi said.
"We would like to thank those who have helped the people for everything they have done and their efforts for the past 26 years since the civil war. But the situation is terrible now."
Staff at the UN World Food Programme’s Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai on Wednesday packed 45 tonnes of food and medical supplies on to six lorries.
They are expected to be shipped from Sharjah to Mogadishu on Friday, from where the aid will be flown to cities across Somalia to avoid areas controlled by Al Shabab extremists.
"Somalia is facing a severe food crisis at the moment," said Stefano Peveri, senior logistics officer at the UN depot.
"It is the effect of El Nino and El Nina weather systems in most of eastern and southern Africa. The complication in Somalia, in Sudan and in north-east Nigeria is the fact that the population is already food insecure."
Of the 12.5 million people living in Somalia, about 6.5 million have unreliable access to food and 3.2 million do not have income needed for daily minimum food requirements.
The UAE is playing a leading role in Somalia, launching a Dh500 million mission of mercy last week to save hundreds of thousands of children and their families from starving to death.
The month-long For You, Somalia campaign was launched under the directives of President Sheikh Khalifa to provide food, water, medicine and other necessities.
Fahad bin Sultan, deputy secretary general of Emirates Red Crescent charity, said financial support was urgently needed.
"We’re starting with a budget of Dh100m and we expect a minimum Dh400m in donations as soon as possible, before Ramadan," Mr bin Sultan said.
The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development on Wednesday announced a contribution of Dh330m.
That amount will go to development projects in Somalia, particularly in infrastructure and transport.
Mr Peveri said: "We want to prevent what happened in 2011 when we had the last big famine in Somalia, and to do so we need to use all the tools and systems we have in place.
"We keep food security under control in Somalia through a safety net of information, from the quantity of crops and the possibility of having storage for crops to access to micronutrients, because food is not enough.
"They also need access to clean water and the health of livestock."
The drought has forced the UN to scale up its operations in Somalia.
"At the beginning of the year, we had a target population of about 1.2 million people," Mr Peveri said. ‘Today we want to reach 3.5 million. The problem is getting more serious."
With no grazing area and dry riverbeds, the country has no possibility to grow food.
"This is why we have to intervene," Mr Peveri added. "Most of our efforts at the moment are to prevent the most food insecure areas entering the famine stage with chronic and severe malnutrition."