July 17, 2012—One year after famine was declared in Somalia, a quarter of the country’s population is still surviving on humanitarian aid and over a million more people could require it over the next two months, international agency Oxfam warned today. The agency called on the international community to increase investment in emergency aid and long-term development to help Somalis sustain themselves through drought and conflict.
“In 2011 the world didn’t act until famine was declared, and the delay cost lives and money. Now, with the warning signs of a worsening crisis, we must learn the lessons from last year. Now is the time to invest in both emergency relief and long-term support,” said Senait Gebregziabher, Country Director for Oxfam.
Oxfam’s local partners say there has been considerable improvement since last year’s famine, with the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance reduced from 3.7 million a year ago to 2.5 million today. However, the ongoing conflict and poor rains of the past few months threaten recovery. With the harvest due to start across Somalia in the coming weeks, expectations are low.
“The farmers who live away from the rivers are the hardest hit, since their fields can’t be irrigated. If we don’t act now, a deepening emergency is likely in the next 60 days,” said Zachariah Imeje, Oxfam Associate Country Director.
Oxfam says improvements in water infrastructure and agriculture have reduced the effects of drought. Over the past year, Oxfam has helped with borehole drilling in Lower Juba, rehabilitation of irrigation canals in Middle Shabelle, and rangeland management in Gacan Libaax in Somaliland.
“Somalia needs more than a band aid; it needs sustained assistance,” said Lucie Goulet of Oxfam Canada’s Horn & East Africa program. “Unless we provide Somalis with the means to withstand future shocks, they will face crises again and again.”
In addition to the food crisis, fighting has delayed the delivery of humanitarian aid and at one point forced Oxfam to suspend programs in parts of the country. Access remains difficult and Oxfam continues to work in partnership with local Somali agencies to reach affected communities.
Oxfam supported programs have benefited more than 1.3 million Somalis with emergency water and sanitation, therapeutic feeding centers, cash transfers, and tools and seeds.