Monday, March 29, 2010

Funding shortage could force UN health agency to curtail activities in Somalia

Child being fed a ready-to-eat therapeutic food at a displacement camp [File Photo]

26 March 2010 – The international community’s lack of financial support for healthcare activities in Somalia could undo the progress made so far in the Horn of Africa nation, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today.

“WHO had requested, in the 2010 Consolidated Appeals Process for Somalia, $46 million, of which only 8 per cent have been funded so far,” agency spokesperson Paul Garwood told reporters in Geneva, noting that the main donor was the UN Central Emergency Fund itself.

In recent years, millions of children have been vaccinated and hundreds of medical staff have been trained in surgery and surveillance of disease outbreaks.

HO had requested, in the 2010 Consolidated Appeals Process for Somalia, $46 million, of which only 8 per cent have been funded so far

The WHO is currently on the verge of reducing such activities in parts of the country, even as the number of reported disease cases, such as cholera, is on rise and the risks of outbreaks very high, Mr. Garwood said.

In addition, fighting between Government and its supporters and rebel forces killed 48 people and wounded more than 400 others in the first half of this month, he added.

Meanwhile, the top United Nations envoy to Somalia today said that he is pleased with the momentum generated by recent events in regard to the peace process in the war-torn nation, including a security sector reform meeting and the signing of an agreement between the Somali Government and a rebel group.

“We are a quarter of the way into the second year of the TFG’s [Transitional Federal Government] term and managing the status quo is not an option. A number of firm and significant steps have been made that show the willingness and ability of the Government to use this transitional period wisely and for the benefit of the Somali people,” Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said in a statement.

The comments come just days after he met with Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and the head of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), Boubacar Diarra, at a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, of the Joint Security Committee (JSC).

During the meeting this past Tuesday, participants discussed the progress made and future actions needed to further the TFG’s national security and stabilization plan, including training initiatives supported by the European Union and other members of the international community.

The UN does not have a peacekeeping mission in Somalia, but is mandated by the Security Council to work politically and logistically with the international community to support AMISOM and the TFG.

TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected in January 2009, the first formal Government in Somalia since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991 pushed the country into turmoil.

A number of former rebel groups have at times supported TFG, the most recent being Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a, which signed a peace agreement with the Government earlier this month.

Mr. Ould-Abdallah said the agreement was an additional indication of the Government’s commitment to associate all willing parties towards restoring peace and reconciliation.

In a related development, the Independent Federal Constitutional Commission (IFCC) wrapped up a workshop on Tuesday in Djibouti to lay out new parameters for the Constitutional process. The IFCC is expected to have a final draft Constitution prepared by 1 July.

This weekend, the Special Representative, along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will attend the Arab League Summit in Sirte, Libya. While the meeting will focus on the Middle East, specifically the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, Mr. Ould-Abdallah is expected to raise the situation in Somalia with Arab leaders.

The talks will come ahead of a conference hosted by Turkey addressing Somalia’s reconstruction and development, which is expected to take place on 22 May in Istanbul.

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