United Nations response to the drought crisis in the Horn of Africa (2)

By United Nations
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Background: The drought crisis across the Horn of Africa – in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia -- has left more than 12.4 million people in desperate need, has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, and, according to senior UN officials, the situation continues to get worse.

This past week the United Nations declared that famine now exists in five areas in Somalia – adding the capital Mogadishu, the Afgoye corridor outside of the capital itself, and the Middle Shabelle region -- to the previously declared famine areas of Lower Shabelle and in southern Bakool region.

One-quarter of Somalia's 7.5 million people has now been displaced, either within Somalia or to neighbouring countries, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). At least 2.8 million people, including 1.25 million children, are in critical need of assistance in southern Somalia.

OCHA has warned that the appeal for funds to respond the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa region is still only 44 per cent funded, with an additional $1.4 billion still required to cover unmet needs.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon initiated telephone conversations with officials from Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates in which he stressed the paramount need to address the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. He called for an urgent international effort to meet the gap in the humanitarian requirements of the region.

At a press conference in New York on 1 August, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos rebuffed allegations that the crisis had been ignored, and said that early warning systems had predicted the drought last year, following which humanitarian agencies appealed for $1.6 billion dollars. “As of mid-year, around half of that money had been raised, and as of last week donors had committed more than $1 billion,” said Ms. Amos, stressing that the response “is not enough.” She said that the UN will support a plan by the African Union to hold a funding conference later this month.

In the last week of July, the World Food Programme airlifted into Mogadishu 28 metric tonnes of ready-to-use food to be distributed in health centres of the city, for highly malnourished and moderately malnourished children. Meanwhile, UNICEF, which has a funding gap of over $200 million out of its $340 million appeal, has requested from the air transport industry free and heavily discounted cargo space to help them transport emergency nutrition supplies to the Horn of Africa.

UNHCR has announced that it was preparing to deliver assistance to up to 180,000 people in Mogadishu and south-central Somalia by the end of August. However, UNHCR said its ability to deliver much needed aid was being hampered by the ongoing fighting in the Somali capital. This sentiment echoed recent remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “As long as there is conflict in Somalia, the United Nations and its partners cannot effectively fight famine. More and more children will go hungry; more and more people will needlessly die.”

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, appealed to all Somalis, both inside and outside the country, to work together to support the ongoing peace process and alleviate the plight of those suffering from famine. “This is a time of great crisis, but also of rare opportunity. It is a time for everyone to pull together to help those suffering and to work towards a better future for all.”

Information on United Nations efforts to address the crisis in the Horn of Africa can be found below.

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Links to relevant UN statements, press releases and websites

Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos

Press Conference by Emergency Relief Coordinator on Horn of Africa Drought, 1 August 2011


Special Representative for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) Augustine P. Mahiga

SRSG Mahiga's letter to the Somali diaspora, 3 August 2011

01 Letter to the Diaspora 03AUG11

Websites of UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes

OCHA website: Horn of Africa Crisis

WFP website: Horn of Africa Crisis

FAO website: Crisis in the Horn of Africa

UNICEF website

UNHCR website: Crisis in the Horn of Africa

IFAD website: Horn of Africa: The rains will fail in 2015, 2016, or 2017, but must we also fail?

How to Help
OCHA website: Horn of Africa Crisis – DONATE

UNICEF website: Crisis in the Horn of Africa – DONATE NOW


WFP website: Horn Of Africa: 10 Ways You Can Help

UNHCR website: Somali refugees need your help now!

Link to recent UN News Centre stories

UN declares famine in another three areas of Somalia

3 August 2011 –The United Nations today declared a famine in three more areas in drought-ravaged Somalia, bringing to five the number of regions in the Horn of Africa country where acute malnutrition and starvation have already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.


Horn of Africa: UNICEF urges airlines to cut costs of delivering aid

2 August – As aid agencies continue to scale up their response to the dire humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is appealing to the air transport sector to provide free and discounted cargo space to bring emergency food supplies into the region.


Somalia: UN official warns famine could spread without adequate relief funding

1 August – The United Nations humanitarian chief warned today that the famine in Somalia could spread if the international community does not provide the funds required to respond to the hunger crisis, which, she said, had claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people


UN calls for more funds to save lives across Horn of Africa

29 July – The United Nations today appealed for a further $1.4 billion to save the lives of some 12 million people across the Horn of Africa stricken by a worsening drought, and to stop the crisis from becoming an “even bigger catastrophe.”


UN refugee agency seeks additional funding for Horn of Africa emergency

28 July – The United Nations refugee agency today revised upwards the amount of funds it requires to effectively respond to the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa, asking donors to provide an additional $8.6 million on top of the $136.3 million already requested for its humanitarian operations in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.


Ban stresses urgency of funding Horn of Africa relief efforts

27 July – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed the need for urgent funding to carry out critical humanitarian efforts in the Horn of Africa and assist the millions suffering from famine and drought in the region.


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Cleaning up Nigerian oil pollution could take 30 years, cost billions of dollars – UN

The environmental restoration of Nigeria's Ogoniland oil region could prove to be the world's most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up exercise ever, if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and other ecosystems are to be brought back to full health, according to a United Nations report released today.

It could take 25 to 30 years, with an initial investment of $1 billion just for the first five years, to clean up pollution from more than 50 years of oil operations in the Niger Delta, ranging from the “disastrous” impact on mangrove vegetation to the contamination of wells with potentially cancer-causing chemicals in a region that is home to some 1 million people.

The independent scientific assessment, carried out by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) over a 14-month period, showed greater and deeper pollution than previously thought after an agency team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, analyzed 4,000 soil and water samples, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.

“It is UNEP's hope that the findings can break the decades of deadlock in the region and provide the foundation upon which trust can be built and action undertaken to remedy the multiple health and sustainable development issues facing people in Ogoniland,” UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner said of the report, which was presented to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan today in Abuja, the capital.

“In addition it offers a blueprint for how the oil industry, and public regulatory authorities, might operate more responsibly in Africa and beyond at a time of increasing production and exploration across many parts of the continent.”

The report, Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, proposed the establishment of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority as soon as possible, with an initial capital injection of $1 billion from the oil industry and the Government to cover the first five years of the clean-up project; and a soil management centre with hundreds of mini-centres to treat contaminated soil and provide hundreds of job opportunities.

It also recommended setting up a centre to promote learning and benefit other communities impacted by oil contamination in the Niger Delta and elsewhere in the world.

The study found that some areas, which appear unaffected at the surface, are in reality severely contaminated underground, and action to protect human health and reduce should be taken without delay. In at least 10 communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened.

In one community, Nisisioken Ogale, near a Nigerian National Petroleum Company pipeline, families are drinking water from wells contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels over 900 times above UN World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, warranting emergency action ahead of all other remediation efforts.

The report noted that the impact of oil on mangrove vegetation had been disastrous, with many inter-tidal creeks where mangroves that serve as nurseries for fish and natural pollution filters denuded of leaves and stems, the roots coated in layers of a bitumen-type substance. But despite community concerns, fish consumption was not posing a health risk.

Meanwhile, Ogoni communities are exposed to hydrocarbons every day through multiple routes. While the impact of individual contaminated land sites tends to be localized, air pollution related to oil industry operations is pervasive and affecting the quality of life of close to 1 million people.

UNEP has emphasized that the study, which began in late 2009, is independent and its funding by the Shell Petroleum Development Company is in keeping with the polluter-pays principle.

Sudan delayed evacuation flight for wounded peacekeepers – UN official

Sudanese authorities threatened to shoot a helicopter trying to medically evacuate three seriously injured United Nations blue helmets in Sudan's troubled Abyei area, causing a three-hour delay in the rescue mission, the outgoing head of UN peacekeeping said today.

Four Ethiopian blue helmets – part of the newly established UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) –died and seven others were injured on Tuesday after their patrol vehicle hit a landmine.

One of the soldiers died on the spot and the three others waiting to be evacuated subsequently succumbed to their injuries, according to Alain Le Roy, the outgoing UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

“We didn't get the clearance for the Medevac helicopter to take off immediately,” Mr. Le Roy told reporters at UN Headquarters. He said there had been a threat to shoot down the aircraft if it took off without clearance.

A board of inquiry is looking into the incident and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has raised the issue with the Sudanese authorities, according to Mr. Le Roy.

He stressed that under the status of forces agreement entered into by the UN and the government of a country where a peacekeeping mission is deployed, medical evacuation flights do not require prior authorization.

Mr. Le Roy also said it was difficult to say whether the lives of the three peacekeepers could have been saved if the helicopter had been allowed to take off immediately.

More than 1,500 troops, all Ethiopian, have been deployed in Abyei since the Security Council voted in June to establish UNISFA after north-south violence forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes.

Outgoing UN peacekeeping chief hails achievements of blue helmets

The outgoing head of United Nations peacekeeping today outlined the achievements of his department's numerous missions around the world, saying peacekeepers had protected civilians and brought stability to many countries where they were deployed.

From Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Haiti and Timor-Leste, UN peacekeepers deserve greater recognition for their service to both the UN and the world, Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told his final press conference.

“Our mission in Liberia transformed the situation,” he said, referring to the West African nation where a UN operation (UNMIL) has been in place since 2003. “The President of Liberia [Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf] every day is praising our work. There is much more stability [and] there will be presidential elections later in the year.”

On Haiti, Mr. Le Roy pointed out that, before last year's devastating earthquake, the country had enjoyed five years of stability as a result of the work of a UN mission (MINUSTAH). After the quake the mission prevented a descent into “total chaos,” he added.

Despite frequent incidents of rape and other forms of violence in the DRC, the UN mission to the country (MONUSCO) has not received due credit for providing protection to millions of civilians, particularly in the DRC's volatile east, Mr. Le Roy said.

“The situation is DRC is so much better than three years ago,” he noted.

Mr. Le Roy attributed the success of January's referendum that paved the way for THE secession of South Sudan to the presence of the then UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

“Nobody a few months ago expected a referendum to be on time, fair, credible [and] accepted by both parties with no fighting. Who made that possible? The mission on the ground.”

He acknowledged that during recent fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan state UNMIS was not able to protect some civilians. However, he said the troops had established a safe area near their base in the town of Kadugli where thousands of civilians had sought safety and protection.

On Côte d'Ivoire, Mr. Le Roy recalled that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had stated that without the presence of the UN operation (UNOCI), the post-election violence earlier this year would have been much worse.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had also managed to prevent an escalation of the conflict and enabled the Lebanese armed forces to extend their patrols beyond the Litani River in the country's south, Mr. Le Roy said.

“There are so many achievements… I say that in fact for our peacekeepers because in the media there are always the failures, the weaknesses and we acknowledge the failures… But at the same time our peacekeepers are working in extremely difficult conditions in places where nobody wants to go and they are in some cases risking their lives,” said Mr. Le Roy.

Millions of poor people will have mobile phone numbers under UN-backed scheme

Three million poor people in Africa and South Asia, the majority of them women, will gain access to low-cost mobile phone numbers as part of technology firm Movirtu's partnership with the United Nations-backed initiative that enlists the private sector in efforts to fight poverty.

Instead of sharing a phone number with family members or neighbours, those provided with a Movirtu cloud phone number will be able to use any mobile phone to log in with their own unique number to make and receive individual calls and access critical information and services such as banking or agriculture support.

The new effort is part of the Business Call to Action (BCtA), a global initiative supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the corporate responsibility scheme known as the UN Global Compact and several other organizations and governments.

“Evidence shows that access to mobile communications is a way of improving lives and expanding the earning potential of one billion people living on $1-2 a day,” said Amanda Gardiner, BCtA Acting Programme Manager.

“By providing low-income communities with access to secure mobile accounts and identities, Movirtu is helping to bridge the divide between those that have easy access to mobile phones and those that rely on community phones or paying a borrower's premium to friends to meet their communication needs,” she added.

The United Kingdom-based company plans to bring the phone technology to at least 12 markets in Africa and South Asia by early 2013, giving at least 50 million people in both continents access to the technology, with a target of 3 million using it on a regular basis.

A unique personal mobile identity will allow users to access network applications that provide information about employment opportunities, promote access to mobile payment systems or banking services, and help keep users up-to-date on a variety of health and market topics.

The main beneficiaries of Movirtu's investment will be women in rural communities in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to a news release issued by the company and BCtA.

“It is a basic fact not everyone in the world can afford their own mobile phone,” said Ramona Liberoff, Executive Vice President of Marketing, Strategy and Planning at Movirtu. “Our goal is to increase the earning potential of those on $1-2 a day by saving money and allowing them to access the economic benefits of a full mobile identity today.”

Movirtu has been piloting the phones in Africa, with Madagascar the first market entry point. Additional country launches will be announced later this year.

UN encourages Haitians to reach consensus on new government

The United Nations has encouraged all political actors in Haiti to search for a consensus amid the ongoing struggle between President Michel Martelly and Parliament over the confirmation of a new prime minister.

In a news release issued on Wednesday, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) took note of Parliament's decision to reject the choice of Bernard Gousse – the second time the legislative body has rejected the nomination of a prime minister designated by the President since his inauguration on 14 May.

“MINUSTAH is concerned about the absence of a government in Haiti for almost three months,” the mission stated. “This limits the State's ability to implement its programmes, to guide the reconstruction process, and to meet its responsibilities towards the people of Haiti.”

The country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, is still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced 2.3 million others.

It is also currently bracing itself for what is likely to be the first of several storms of this year's hurricane season.

“MINUSTAH respectfully reminds all political players in the country of their responsibility to work in the best interests of the nation,” the mission said.

“As the hurricane season starts, MINUSTAH encourages all political actors to negotiate and search for a consensus which would lead to the good governance of Haiti,” it added.

MINUSTAH has been on the ground in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest.

Côte d'Ivoire: UN official meets with detained ex-leaders to foster reconciliation

In an effort to promote reconciliation in Côte d'Ivoire, a senior United Nations official is meeting with former president Laurent Gbagbo and other detained members of his regime to ensure that their human rights are respected.

“We are emerging from a crisis and the way officials of the former regime are treated can influence the efforts of everyone in the process of national reconciliation, given their special status,” Guillaume Ngefa, the acting human rights chief in the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), said after two days of meetings with the detainees north of Abidjan, the commercial capital.

“Our mission is part of UNOCI's mandate to monitor, observe and report on the detention conditions,” he added, noting that such visits would take place every two weeks.

Mr. Gbagbo has been under house arrest since he was captured on 11 April, ending months of violence in the wake of his refusal to step down after he lost the UN-certified presidential run-off election in November last year to Alassane Ouattara, now the country's President.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have requested authorization to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in widespread violence following the election.

Mr. Ngefa already met with Mr. Gbagbo's wife, Simone Ehivet Gbagbo, in Odienné, 550 miles northwest of Abidjan, on Tuesday and other senior officials on Wednesday in Boundiali, over 400 miles north of Abidjan. He is now scheduled to go to Korhogo, where Mr. Gbagbo is being detained, and to Bouna, where other members of the former regime are being held.

Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative and UNOCI head Y. J. Choi met with Mr. Gbagbo and stressed that the UN would play its part to ensure he receives appropriate protection.

An estimated one million Ivorians were displaced by the violence during the recent crisis, including those who fled to neighbouring countries.

In his most recent report Mr. Ban said the security situation was still “extremely precarious,” given the fact that civilian communities are “awash with weapons,” and the resurfacing of long-standing ethnic, citizenship and land ownership issues that erupted in the civil war in 2002 and the division of the country into a Government-held south and a rebel-controlled north. The election won by Mr. Ouattara reunited the country again.

“The coming six to 12 months will be critical in determining whether Côte d'Ivoire will continue on a steady recovery from the crisis or slip back into renewed conflict,” he added.