by Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nur Americo
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
A recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicated that at least 4.2 million people in Somalia need urgent life-saving humanitarian support. By July, the number may rise to a staggering 5.4 million people – including 1 million children. We need action now.
The statistics paint a dire picture, but they may not fully capture the harsh reality of actual families living right on the edge, unable to get their next decent meal or clean water despite fasting in the month of Ramadan.
The prolonged, biting drought and significant crop failure and livestock losses in many parts of the country together with other factors are pushing millions of people to the tipping point and if urgent action is not taken now, the consequences are unthinkable. Cases of severe malnutrition among children have shot up significantly already according to OCHA and anecdotal sources on the ground.
The current scale of the humanitarian support by local and international actors is making a notable difference on the ground but due to funding and logistical constraints, it’s only reaching a fraction of the people who desperately need a hand of help.
It’s important for Somali nationals inside and outside the country to pull together at this critical time to support our brothers and sisters in line with our religious, cultural and humanitarian obligations. Help from the international community can supplement our efforts as we take the lead.
Somali nationals have robustly stepped up during similar humanitarian challenges in the recent past, pooling together significant resources that have cushioned our brothers and sisters from some of the worst humanitarian situations in the horn. It’s time to step up again and we need to do so urgently before the people reach breaking point.
Coming together to provide the support is only one thing; it’s also vital to coordinate our humanitarian efforts to ensure that we reach all the deserving people in the grounds on the basis of their priority needs.
Our political, religious, business and community leaders need to take lead in effectively mobilizing Somali nationals and others as they’ve done in the past before things spiral out of control. We need to create a sense of urgency in order to jolt people to providing the support that millions of people need on the ground.
In the spirit of the month of Ramadan when we are required to be at our most generous state, let’s all extend the hand of help to those who need it most. Prophet Muhammad (May Peace be Upon Him) once said: “He is not a true Muslim, one who eats his fill whilst his neighbor beside him goes hungry.”
Efforts of individual people who send regular, modest remittances to the families across the country is going a long way to sustain the most essential needs of many people who would otherwise be in a humanitarian crisis as well. But many of such struggling families are also surviving on the edge and may need support in the short term till things stabilize.
Admittedly, the recurring humanitarian situation in Somalia may have generated a sense of fatigue and desensitization among people living in Somalia and beyond. But we need to overcome this by opening our hearts and wallets since the crisis is just as dire as previous years or worse.
Indeed, humanitarian crises have been a recurring fixture in Somalia and the horn region and its time to craft durable solutions to strengthen self-sufficiency and resilience of the people to minimize the need for external support. Other parts of the world face recurrent droughts but due to adequate planning, it doesn’t translate to a humanitarian problem as in the case of the horn. We need to borrow a lesson or two from such regions.
It’s also important to strengthen further our early warning systems regarding drought and famine to enable more proactive action. International humanitarian organizations should also consider sourcing food from local producers whenever possible as this will stimulate food production systems that will ultimately strengthen the resilience and coping abilities of vulnerable people in the country.
Meanwhile, millions of people, including vulnerable women, children and the aged are looking towards us for support. Let’s not fail them.
Mr. Nur is the former Somalia envoy to Kenya, a former presidential candidate and founder, Yasmin Foundation, a humanitarian and educational organization based in Mogadishu. Email: [email protected]