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US urges donors to give far more as Somalia faces famine

Published:Tuesday | January 31, 2023 | 1:12 AM
United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP):

The first US Cabinet member to visit Somalia since 2015 urged the world’s distracted donors on Sunday to give immediate help to a country facing deadly famine, which she calls “the ultimate failure of the international community”.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, heard perhaps the starkest warning yet about the crisis: Excess deaths during what is now Somalia’s longest drought on record will “almost certainly” surpass those of the famine formally declared in the country in 2011, when more than a quarter-million people died.

This time, the world is looking elsewhere, many humanitarian officials say.

“Many of the traditional donors have washed their hands and focused on Ukraine,” the UN resident coordinator in Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula, told Thomas-Greenfield during a briefing in Mogadishu.

While the US ambassador declined to openly ‘name and shame’ in her speech calling on donors for more help, saying “The countries know who we’re talking about,” the UN resident coordinator didn’t hesitate.

The European Union (EU), for example, funded just 10 per cent of the humanitarian response plan for Somalia last year, Abdelmoula told AP. The EU gave US$74 million, and the UK US$78 million, according to UN data. Japan gave US$27 million, and Saudi Arabia US$22 million.

The United States, meanwhile, funded roughly 80 per cent, giving US$1.3 billion to Somalia since the start of the 2022 fiscal year. The ambassador announced another $40 million on Sunday.

But the US “can’t continue to pay at that level, even if there were no Ukraine”, Thomas-Greenfield told the AP in an interview, adding that Washington would like to see countries in the nearby Gulf region, for example, donate more.

She spelled out the fatal risks in the weeks ahead if other nations don’t step up. “According to the UN, without contributions from other donors, critical food and nutrition assistance supporting 4.6 million people in Somalia will end” by April, Thomas-Greenfield said.