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Somalia, on the brink of a humanitarian disaster – UN Independent Expert

GENEVA (2 March 2011) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, today called upon the international community to intensify its efforts to address the devastating effects of the ongoing drought on the already exposed Somali population.

“The drought situation in the country and the slow international response is extremely serious and may lead to a natural and human disaster,” said Mr. Bari. “The ongoing drought response is far from meeting the needs of the affected population, in terms of access to food, clean drinking water, nutrition and health, among others.”

“I strongly urge the international community, including the UN, to take immediate and concerted measures to address the dire humanitarian crisis that affects all human rights of the vulnerable Somali population, including women, children and the elderly as well as the internally displaced people (IDP) and minorities,” he said.

The human rights expert warned that “the drought is now a cause for displacement in Somalia, in addition to conflict,” and expressed his deep concerns over its effect on the life of the population in many regions of Somalia, including Hiiraan, Bakool, central regions (Mudug, Galgaduud), Juba and Northern Gedo, as well as Somaliland and Puntland.

“It was with shock and great sadness that during my recent field visit to Mogadishu, Puntland and Somaliland (21-25 February) I learnt from local authorities and civil society from the various parts of Somalia that the drought affected population has sought assistance closer to urban areas, such as Mogadishu, where the ongoing fighting presents increased risk for the civilian population.”

“I have visited several IDP camps, in particular in Puntland and must express my utmost concern for the living conditions that such recently displaced population will face,” Mr. Bari said. “Insecurity is now the main reason for new displacement of people currently affected by the ongoing severe drought in Somalia, including lack of access to food and clean drinking water”.

According to the latest country-wide food security assessment, an estimated 2.4 million people in Somalia are in Humanitarian Emergency and Acute Food and Livelihoods Crisis, or 32 per cent of the total population in Somalia, are in need of humanitarian assistance or livelihood at least until June 2011. The increase is due to poor Deyr rains, civil insecurity and displacement.

The central regions have suffered form eight consecutive seasons of below average seasonal performance and the capacity to withstand the current crisis during the harsh Jilaal dry season (January to March) is limited. Up to 70 per cent of the total populations in Hiiraan region are in crisis and in need of humanitarian assistance or livelihood support. At the same time, Hiiraan and rest of the southern Somalia regions have not received general food distribution since December 2009 due to the suspension of WFP food distribution.

From 14 to 25 February, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia undertook his sixth field visit to the Horn of Africa. He visited Djibouti and Kenya/Nairobi and Somalia, notably Mogadishu, Hargeisa in Somaliland, Gal Mudug/South Galkaayo and North Galkaayo and Garowe in Punland.

Dr. Shamsul Bari (Bangladesh) was appointed Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

See the Independent Expert’s reports on Somalia: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=48

OHCHR Country Page – Somalia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/SOIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Idrissa Kane (Tel.:+ 41 22 928 9810 / e-mail: ikane@ohchr.org) or write to ie-somalia@ohchr.org