One year after the declaration of famine in Somalia, a quarter of the country's population are still surviving on humanitarian aid and over a million people could fall back into food crisis in the next two months, international agency Oxfam warned today. The agency is calling on the international community to increase investment in both emergency aid and long-term development so Somalis can 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, lessons from last year must be learnt. Now is the time to invest in aid - both emergency relief to save lives, and long-term support that helps people cope with these frequent crises," said Senait Gebregziabher, Country Director for Oxfam.
According to Oxfam's partners in Somalia, 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 have affected people at a crucial time as they try to recover from last year's famine, crop failure, death of livestock and destruction of livelihoods.
"Our partners confirm that some people are again slipping back into emergency. The farmers who live away from the rivers are the hardest hit, since their fields are far from irrigation. If we don't act now, they say we are likely to go back into a deepening emergency in the next 60 days. We are currently coordinating an assessment in the crisis areas, as we hope to scale up programs," said Zachariah Imeje, Oxfam Associate Country Director.
With the harvest due to start across Somalia in the coming weeks, expectations are low after recent poor rains. Oxfam said donors and the international community must learn the lessons of last year's crisis and increase investment now.
In order to break this cycle Oxfam says that programs are needed that will improve the water infrastructure, rehabilitate agriculture, and build sustainable business that have proven to reduce the effects of drought.
"Somalia needs more than a band aid; it needs sustained aid to build resilience, so that these food crises won't keep recurring," said Gebregziabher. "The international community, donors and agencies that deliver aid in Somalia should implement projects that give Somalis the means to withstand future shocks, or we will continue to face these crises again and again."
In addition to the food crisis, conflict resulted in the temporary suspension of some Oxfam supported programs in parts of the country, and delays in the delivery of humanitarian aid. While the conflict has caused changes to areas controlled by various armed groups, access remains difficult for aid agencies that are responding to the crisis.
To maintain access to crisis hit communities, Oxfam continues to work in partnership with local Somali agencies to deliver humanitarian and development projects in the affected areas.