The country the world forgot—UN’s appeal for Somalia relief
In a recent conference in Dubai, the UN reports that a child in Somalia dies every six minutes and that aide and political pressure is needed now more than ever.
August 24, 2011 1:34 by Atique Naqvi
Whether it is a $50 million-aid from Saudi Arabia or about 20 aircrafts taking off from Dubai to take food and other aid packages to the Somali capital Mogadishu, the spirit of giving during the Holy Month of Ramadan has been in full swing in the Arab region.
The oil-rich Arab countries donate generously for humanitarian causes, despite what Head of United Nations Refugee Agency Brigitte Khair Mountain says is the general misconception that Gulf Arab donors are few and far between.
Mountain adds that, in fact, donations per capita made by governments in this region are more than other countries.
Saudi Arabia reportedly gave $50 million for Somalia and there are a number of awareness campaigns currently running in the UAE and Qatar to raise funds in Somalia.
“I think people in this region are very open and helpful about what is happening in Somalia,” said Director of Donor Relations in the Middle East for the United Nations World Food Programme, Said Mohamed Diab. “We hope that the funds raised through these efforts are channeled to Somalia as soon as possible.”
According to the UN some 30,000 children in Somalia have recently died in a span of few weeks. “The actual figure could be much higher as several Somali areas are still beyond the access of UN and other aid agencies,” said Mountain.
Both Mountain and Said were speaking on the sidelines of a media meet at the group’s Dubai office. The conference was focused on garnering financial and material support for Somalia.
“A child dies every six minutes in Somalia. The conflict in Somalia has been continuing for the past 20 years and this has really affected the basic economy and structure of the country and all this has affected people’s ability to earn a living and meet their needs,” said Diab.
“The Somali situation is a result of a mix of natural and political disasters and it is really difficult to say which has affected Somalia more,” he added.
Extremist groups have made it more difficult for aide to reach the needy. Recently, for example, a blockade has been set up in a crucial route to reach the south of Somalia, allegedly instigated by extremist group Al Shabab.
“We have been affected by this and conditions have worsened due to the blockade. The World Food Programme was not allowed to work in the South,” said Diab. “Now, the government controls Mogadishu, which is a good development for agencies like us, but there are several drought and famine affected areas that are still under Al Shabab’s control.”
Diab appealed for politicians to prioritise securing roads for the transportation of aid material. He also asked for the Somali government to provide safe access to affected areas for aid workers. The United Nations has lost 12 workers in Somalia since 2008.
“The world kind of gave up on Somalia and the country turned into a failed state with a worsening political and social instability. But people are still living there, earning their livelihood and raising families,” said Mountain, summing up her appeal.
“It is really sad that while banks are being bailed out with billions of dollars, trillions are being spent on buying arms, billions are spent to fight obesity and some $83.4 million have been earmarked for pet care around the world; the children in Somalia are dying every six minutes,” she said.