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Somalia’s population, international partners must be energized to sustain country’s ‘upward trajectory,’ says senior UN official (23.05.2019)

The country had made significant progress on its economic and security sector reforms.

NEW YORK, United States of America, May 23, 2019 –  Despite Somalia’s persistent security threats, recurrent political crises, capacity constraints and the difficulties in navigating political obstacles to its reform agenda, the Horn of Africa country remains on a “positive trajectory,” the UN Security Council was told on Wednesday.

Briefing the Council, Raisedon Zenenga ,the Deputy Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), reported that the country had made significant progress on its economic and security sector reforms. There had also been progress on the inclusive politics agenda as well, including the constitutional review process and preparations for the universal suffrage elections.

“The Federal Government has decided to apply the same rigorous approach to bring accountability and transparency to the security sector,” he said, noting, among other recent steps, the completion in March of biometric registration of all Somali National Army soldiers. All 16,000 soldiers registered were now receiving their salaries directly into their bank accounts.

“This has cut out middle men, reduced corruption, and ensures regular payment of salaries to military personnel. It also paves the way for rightsizing the National Army,” said Mr. Zenenga.

In parallel with these security sector reforms, the Federal Governments had launched military operations in Lower Shabelle region to advance the Transition Plan, degrade Al Shabaab in strongholds that are contiguous to Mogadishu and thereby halt the recent increase in Al Shabaab attacks in the capital.

Yet, Somalia continued to grapple with significant challenges, he said, explaining that the Federal Government’s reform efforts have encountered “inevitable” resistance. The economic reforms and security sector reforms entail dismantling a war economy that had flourished for decades.

“There are many vested interests which pose obstacles to increased accountability. Taking on these vested interests requires not only the determination, which the Federal Government has shown, but an inclusive approach of building relationships with all stakeholders to demonstrate that the reforms will yield benefits for the whole nation,” Mr. Zenenga stressed.

He also noted that the dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland, which also has implications for the completion of the constitutional review process, remains stalled. “We are, however, encouraged by ‘Somaliland’ President Muse Bihi’s remarks on 18 May expressing his readiness to promote peace with Puntland, including through the exchange of prisoners, and to cooperate with Somalia on issues related to security, trade and education.”

Recalling that UNSOM began the new year facing a security crisis as a result of the mortar attack on the UN compound on 1 January, and a political crisis as a result of the expulsion of the Special representative of the Secretary-General Nicholas Haysom on the same day, Mr. Zenenga said the two incidents had severely disrupted the Mission’s engagement with the Federal Government of Somalia and had also elevated the security risk level for UN personnel and left our staff deeply demoralized.

While the Mission had immediately prioritized the safety and security of its staff while concentrating political efforts on mending relations with the Federal Government, Mr. Zenenga underscored that a lasting solution to the continuing security threat “will come from denying Al Shabaab the space and opportunities to prepare and launch attacks.”

Despite such challenges, he said Somalia has “immense opportunities” to make further progress in the coming months. He set out the following prescription for making headway:

  • The federal and sub-federal levels must agree to work together in a spirit of consensus.
  • Parliament must focus on passing priority legislation in a timely manner;
  • All national stakeholders need to collaborate effectively in responding to the imminent drought and avert a famine; and
  • Key relationships, including with national stakeholders, international partners and regional powers, both in the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf should be nurtured.

“The trajectory is upward, and we can all work together to energize Somalia’s population and their international partners towards reform and progress,” he concluded.

Somalia’s humanitarian situation ‘among the most protracted in the world’

Also briefing the Council, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller, said that ongoing armed conflict and violence, as well as recurrent climatic shocks continue to drive humanitarian needs in Somalia. Governance challenges and underdevelopment compound fragility and make it difficult for communities to develop robust coping mechanisms.

She said that the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, launched in January, identified 4.2 million Somalis – one third of the population – in need of life-saving assistance and protection. This shows a decline in needs from 2017, when famine was averted, raising hope that resilience activities led by the Government and development partners could make further gains.

“However, current humanitarian indicators across the country are showing a deterioration,” said Ms. Mueller, spotlighting three areas of concern: the severe drought conditions that have spread from northern and central areas throughout the country following two failed rainy seasons; the situation of internally displaced persons; and protection concerns.

“We must act now to avert a major humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian partners stand ready to deliver aid to those most in need and are capable of rapidly scaling up response, as was proven during famine prevention efforts in 2017,” said, but cautioned that significant funding shortfalls are constraining response and leading to a reduction in assistance in critical areas, including health, nutrition, food security, and water, sanitation and hygiene.

“I believe I was invited to brief you today to draw attention to the elevated risk of a major humanitarian crisis unfolding on the horizon. The immediate scale up of humanitarian response is essential to mitigate the impact of the drought and to prevent further breaking up of communities that continue to be fragile from the drought in 2017,” she said.

She encouraged the international community to urgently increase support for life-saving drought response efforts and to protect gains made in 2018, and added that it was here hope that immediate resources will be received to help us prevent a dramatic crisis from escalating.

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Somalia: $710 million needed to scale up drought response and avert a major crisis (20.05.2019)

Somalia: NGO Consortium – NGOs warns of looming hunger in Somalia (19.05.2019)

Somalia: Office of the Attorney General – Press Release on Resurgence of Charcoal Production and The Export off the Coast of Somalia (16.05.2019)

FAO raises alarm over disastrous drought in Somalia where over 2 million people face severe hunger (16.05.2019)

Life-saving and livelihood support urgently needed to prevent loss of lives.

ROME, Italy, May 16, 2019 – A disastrous drought in Somalia could leave some 2.2 million people – nearly 18 percent of the population – faced with severe hunger during the July-September period, FAO warned today.

The UN agency issued a special alert on Somalia, indicating that the number of hungry people in the country this year is expected to be 40 percent higher than estimates made at the beginning of 2019.

A deteriorating nutritional status is also of major concern, according to the alert. Acute malnutrition rates as well as the number of acutely malnourished children being admitted to therapeutic feeding centres have sharply increased in 2019.

“Rains in April and early May can make or break Somalis’ food security for the whole year as they are crucial for the country’s main annual harvest in July, following the “Gu” rainy season,” said Mario Zappacosta, FAO Senior Economist and lead of the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

“A significant lack of rains in April and early May has rendered dry and barren up to 85 percent of the croplands in the country’s breadbaskets, and according to the latest projections, food grown during the “Gu” season is likely to be 50 percent below average,” he added.

The latest projection is based on data gathered by FAO experts – including sophisticated analyses of rainfall, temperatures, water availability and vegetation health – that point to the worst drought in years. Some rains are expected in May, but these will be insufficient and arrive too late for crop and pasture recovery before the onset of the dry season.

For example, in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, which produces more than 60 percent of maize grown during the “Gu” season, severe dryness has prevailed so far, with only some scattered, below-average rains occurring in late April and early May.

Drought conditions also affected other major crop producing areas, including the Bay region’s “sorghum belt”, which accounts for more than half of the country’s sorghum production during the “Gu” season, and the “cowpea belt” in Middle Shabelle, Mudug and Galgaduud regions.

Drought takes a heavy toll on herders and their livestock

Poor rains since last October have also taken a heavy toll on herders and their livestock as vegetation has been drying up and water has been increasingly scarce.

The FAO alert warns of a worrying number of animals in very poor health conditions – due to low body weight and drought-induced diseases – in the country’s central and northern regions.

“Herders in the worst drought-affected areas – such as central Galgaduud and in northern Bari and Sanaag regions – have been forced to slaughter the offspring of their goats and sheep as they don’t have enough fodder and water for all their animals, and try to save the milk-producing female livestock,” said FAO Somalia Representative Serge Tissot.

Many herders have not been able to replace livestock lost during the 2017 drought that ravaged the country, so they already have less resources. Now, on top of that, as food and water become scarcer, they have to pay higher prices for trucked-in water and their daily food,” added Tissot.

Action is needed now to prevent loss of lives

Drought and early depletion of food stocks, compounded by declining employment opportunities and low wages for farmers, shortages of livestock products in pastoral areas as well as both heightened conflict and a reduction of humanitarian assistance since early 2019 have all led to a sharp deterioration of the food security situation in the country.

FAO is scaling up its response to prevent an already alarming humanitarian situation from getting even worse. For this, FAO urgently needs more funds as it aims to support 2 million drought-affected people this year by providing critical livelihood support such as cash assistance, quality seeds, tools, and other agricultural services so farmers can make the most of the next planting season.

To protect their remaining livestock, herders require vital support such as water and supplementary feed. Countrywide animal health campaigns must also be rolled out quickly – starting with emergency livestock treatments to keep animals alive, healthy and productive.

Currently, FAO has a funding gap of about $115 million in Somalia.

The 848th meeting of the AUPSC on the 5th AU-United Nations (UN) Joint Review of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) – (15.05.2019)

Somalia: Fews Net – Seasonal Monitor – Dry conditions persist in much of northern Somalia and parts of central Somalia (14.05.2019)

Vaccines are saving millions of lives of children in Somalia: urgent need to scale up routine immunization programme (07.05.2019)

Immunization saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective public health interventions.

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 7, 2019 – From the moment we’re born, we’re all at risk of contracting diseases. So the question is, are we aware enough? Are we responsible enough? Are we immune enough? Not long ago infections like influenza, tetanus, chickenpox and measles were prolonged, painful illnesses, which often resulted in death. Immunization saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective public health interventions.

The Expanded Programmme on Immunization (EPI) started in Somalia in 1978 with the support of WHO and UNICEF. Due to the prolonged conflict and instability Somalia’s health system, including immunization services, is very weak, fragmented and severely under-funded. Control of vaccine-preventable diseases remains a huge challenge in Somalia, due to the low routine immunization coverage and the continued inability to reach children in security-compromised areas, hard-to-reach areas, nomadic children and competing health priorities for parents other than immunization of children. Low routine immunization coverage and a history of serious outbreaks that have hit Somalia in the past are a strong reminder of the risks posed by large cohort of un-immunized children. Vaccine-preventable diseases are prevalent in Somalia and child mortality is 137 per 1000 live births.

Somalia has been providing the traditional 6 antigens in routine immunization and with the support of GAVI – the Vaccine Alliance and immunization partners like UNICEF and WHO. The country has introduced pentavalent vaccine in 2013 and inactivated polio virus vaccine in 2015 and plans to introduce measles-containing-vaccine second-dose (MCV2) in 2020. With the continuous support of GAVI, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International and other important donors immunization coverage has improved in recent years; however, Somalia has still not attained the desired levels of coverage.

To improve immunization coverage more efforts needs to be in place for integrated approach along with other programmes like nutrition, malaria, water and sanitation and communication programmes to complement the reach of immunization and improve coverage of all eligible children with equity.

Somalia faced a deadly measles outbreak in 2017; out of the 31 000 people affected, 83% were children under the age of 10. WHO Somalia’s Emergency Response team, Somali national authorities, and partners targeted 4.7 million children in the nationwide measles campaign. During this intervention, around 4.5 million children were vaccinated. As a result of the nationwide immunization campaign conducted, as of April 2019, Somalia witnessed a decline in the trend of cases reported this year. This steady progress can be attributed to partners’ commitment to strengthen routine immunization and to reach out to unvaccinated children to boost their immunity. However, Somalia’s children are still not out of danger – measles outbreaks are likely to spread in security-compromised inaccessible areas.

Somalia’s last outbreak of wild poliovirus, which occurred from 2013 to 2014, affected 194 children. Since then, as a result of mass and more focused immunization campaigns, and robust surveillance for polio symptoms to guide immunization activities, the country has been free of wild poliovirus. However, due to the challenges faced in reaching hard-to-reach areas, the country is currently experiencing 2 outbreaks of rare strains of the poliovirus, which have affected 13 children so far. The last nationwide polio campaign, conducted in March, vaccinated more than 2.7 million children under 5. More than 84 000 children were vaccinated for the first time.

Marked during the last week of April, World Immunization Week aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. WHO wants to assure parents and communities in Somalia that vaccines are safe, effective, and can lead to lifetime immunity from diseases.

While celebrating World Immunization Week with the theme “Protected Together: Vaccines Work”, Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia, called for scaling up the routine immunization programme in Somalia through working together with partners, communities and grass-root level organization. In 2018, Somali authorities, WHO and partners vaccinated more than 400 000 children against measles as part of routine immunization programme. Yet, about 170 000 children were missed or did not receive the first dose of measles vaccine last year. “Our priority is to reach out to all these children who misses the routine vaccine doses or remain unvaccinated owing to access or any other barrier. Leaving no child behind, we can ensure every child’s right to lead a healthy and productive life- if all who need to vaccinated are vaccinated in a timely way,” he stated.

In the last decade, Somali health authorities and WHO worked with Gavi and other key partners to strengthen routine immunization. This protected 2.4m children against 8 vaccine-preventable childhood diseases.

Somalia has shown remarkable progress in achieving good immunization coverage for some diseases that is realistically feasible to achieve in a fragile state, lot of works still need to be continued and scaled up to fill the immunization gaps through enhancing partnerships with other local stakeholders which is the key theme of this year’s World Immunization Week. Responding to outbreaks of measles or polio is a priority but can be prevented through achieving high coverage in routine immunization programme and also by reaching out to the children who do not receive any vaccine during the first year of their life.

Despite the gains made by vaccination over the years, there are still unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in Somalia today. As a consequence, millions of children are being put at risk against vaccine-preventable diseases. As part of this year’s campaign, grass-root level vaccinators who spearhead all barriers to reach every child in inaccessible areas of the country were honoured as immunization heroes. Their roles in keeping children healthy and securing a safer future has been acknowledged throughout the country.

Somalia: Early warning signs of severe drought and a major humanitarian crisis (DG ECHO, OCHA, FAO, WFP, IGAD) (ECHO Daily Flash of 27 April 2019)

  • “Analyses show that rainfall levels through mid-April will likely be amongst the driest on record (since 1981)…” (IGAD, 17/4/2019). Current conditions are worse than in the same period of 2017 and are only surpassed by the drought of 2011. Much of the Somali population affected in the 2017/18 drought has had no opportunity to recover.
  • Significant deficit in 2019 Gu rainfall is forecasted to continue in May, already resulting in water shortages, increased commodity prices, deterioration of livestock and agropastoral conditions, and displacement of people.
  • Food security situation and nutrition outlook are deteriorating, particularly in northern and central Somalia. 4.9 million Somalis are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, of which 1.5 million are in acute food insecurity. Should the forecasted deficit in rainfall persevere, the number of people in need of immediate assistance is expected to dramatically increase through 2019. Early action is needed to avert food security and nutrition crisis by scaling up immediate life-saving assistance. However, only 15% of the needs defined in the 2019 humanitarian response plan (HRP) seeking USD 1.08 billion are currently funded.

Somalia: Jubaland Council for Change – Jubaland Election Dilemma and Current Trends (16.04.2019)

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