With the Secretary-General – his first field mission since he took office — we visited Baidoa. We met with displaced people going through ordeals none of us can imagine. We visited the regional hospital where children and adults are desperately fighting to survive diarrhea, cholera and malnutrition. Again, as if proof was needed, it was clear that between malnutrition and death there is disease.
Large parts of southern and central Somalia remain under the control or influence of Al-Shabaab and the security situation is volatile. Last year, some 165 violent incidents — an 18 per cent increase compared to 2015 — directly impacted humanitarian work and resulted in 14 deaths of aid workers. Al-Shabaab, Government Forces and other militia also continue to block major supply routes to towns in 29 of the 42 districts in southern and central Somalia. This has restricted access to markets, basic commodities and services, and is severely disrupting livelihoods. Blockades and double taxation bar farmers from transporting their grains. It is critical that AMISOM and Somali forces secure vital road access to enable both lifesaving aid and longer-term recovery. A lot of hope is placed in the new Government.
The current indicators mirror the tragic picture of 2011, when Somalia last suffered a famine. It is important to add that when the famine was called at that time 260,000 had already died, this will be important in what I am about to tell you. However, humanitarian partners now have a larger footprint, mature cash programming, better data through assessments, better controls on resources and vetting of partners, as well as stronger partnership with government authorities. The Government recently declared the drought a national disaster and is taking steps to work with humanitarian partners to ensure a coordinated response. To be clear, we can avert a famine, we have a committed clear new President, a humanitarian and resilience track record, a detailed plan, we’re ready despite incredible risk and danger, we have local and international leadership, we have a lot of access, now we need the international community, at the scale of you the donor agencies and nations, to invest in Somalia, its life-saving — but we need those huge funds now.
For all three crises and North-Eastern Nigeria, an immediate injection of funds plus safe and unimpeded access are required to enable partners to avert a catastrophe; otherwise, many people will predictably die from hunger, livelihoods will be lost, and political gains that have been hard-won over the last few years will be reversed. To be precise we need $4.4 billion by July, and that’s a detailed cost, not a negotiating number.
Before I visited all these countries, I was in Oslo, where the governments of Norway, Germany and Nigeria, in partnership with the United Nations, organized a humanitarian conferenceonNigeria and the Lake Chad region. 10.7 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection, including 7.1 million people who are severely food insecure. Humanitarian partners scaled up their response to reach the most vulnerable groups threatened by violence, food insecurity and famine, particularly in North-Eastern Nigeria.
Fourteen donors pledged a total of US$672 million, of which $458 million is for humanitarian action in 2017. This is very good news, and I commend those who made such generous pledges. More is needed however to receive the $1.5 billion required to provide the assistance needed across the Lake Chad region.
We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations. Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease. Children stunted and out of school. Livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost. Communities’ resilience rapidly wilting away. Development gains reversed. Many will be displaced and will continue to move in search for survival, creating ever more instability across entire regions. The warning call and appeal for action by the Secretary-General can thus not be understated. It was right to take the risk and sound the alarm early, not wait for the pictures of emaciated dying children or the world’s TV screens to mobilise a reaction and the funds.
The UN and humanitarian partners are responding. We have strategic, coordinated and prioritised plans in every country. We have the right leadership and heroic, dedicated teams on the ground. We are working hand-in-hand with development partners to marry the immediate life-saving with longer term sustainable development. We are ready to scale up. This is frankly not the time to ask for more detail or use that postponing phrase, what would you prioritize? Every life on the edge of famine and death is equally worth saving.
Now we need the international community and this Council to act:
First and foremost, act quickly to tackle the precipitating factors of famine. Preserving and restoring normal access to food and ensuring all parties' compliance with international humanitarian law are key.
Second, with sufficient and timely financial support, humanitarians can still help to prevent the worst-case scenario. To do this, humanitarians require safe, full and unimpeded access to people in need. Parties to the conflict must respect this fundamental tenet of IHL and those with influence over the parties must exert that influence now.
Third, stop the fighting. To continue on the path of war and military conquest is — I think we all know — to guarantee failure, humiliation and moral turpitude, and will bear the responsibility for the millions who face hunger and deprivation on an incalculable scale because of it.
Allow me to very briefly sum up. The situation for people in each country is dire and without a major international response, the situation will get worse. All four countries have one thing in common: conflict. This means we — you — have the possibility to prevent — and end — further misery and suffering. The UN and its partners are ready to scale up. But we need the access and the funds to do more. It is all preventable. It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes.
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President.
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