Baidoa – Security, peace and state building, as well as drought, were among the issues addressed by senior United Nations officials in Somalia today during his visit to the southwestern state of Somalia. country.
Regarding security in this Federal Member State, the UN Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan, highlighted the recent deadly Al-Shabaab attacks there.
“Let me start by expressing my condolences on the tragic death of South West State Regional Justice Minister Sheikh Hassan Ibrahim and several others, including one of his sons, on Friday. Several others were also injured, we wish them a speedy recovery. And this incident of course also followed the death of Merka District Commissioner, Abdullahi Ali Wafow, for which I also offer my condolences,” Mr Swan said.
Reports said the minister and others were killed by an explosive device after leaving a mosque last Friday, while the district official and several others were killed in a suicide bombing last Wednesday.
The UN Special Representative’s remarks were delivered during a joint media meeting with the President of South West State, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed “Laftagareen”, whom he had met earlier in the temporary capital of the Federal Member State, Baidoa.
He said the terror group’s latest attacks were a stark reminder of the danger it poses to civilians and to peace and stability across Somalia.
“I expressed my concern over the continued activities of Al-Shabaab across South West State, and we discussed the group’s recent attacks in Bakol. These incidents underscore the need to advance Somalia’s security transition to be better able to deal with such threats,” Swan said.
In addition to security, the UN official said he and the President of South West State discussed a range of other important local and national issues, including how best to advance the processes of peacebuilding and statebuilding in Somalia now that a new federal government and leadership was in place.
“We agreed on the importance of extensive collaboration between the Federal Government and Federal Member States to advance progress on national priorities,” Swan said.
At a more local level, the need for amicable approaches to resolving disputes was highlighted.
“I also welcomed President Abdiaziz’s assurances that, along with other prominent political figures in South West State, he will pursue peaceful dialogue to resolve any disputes they may have. It is important that political differences are resolved through dialogue and that freedom of expression is guaranteed as provided for in the South West State Interim Constitution,” Mr. Swan said.
response to drought
The ongoing drought affecting millions of Somalis, many of them in South West State, featured prominently in UN officials’ discussions with leaders of the Federal Member State.
Mr Swan said that while the situation was a huge challenge, the South West State administration and the humanitarian community were doing everything possible to respond to the humanitarian crisis.
“In this regard, we discussed the importance of access to remote areas, as well as the growing influx of displaced people in Baidoa and other urban centers in South West State. UN agencies are already responding through cash transfer programmes, nutrition assistance, water and sanitation support and health services,” he said.
“But the situation is dire and there is still a lot to do,” he added. “To this end, the United Nations continues to advocate with the donor community to mobilize more resources to address this challenge across the country and here in South West State.
Somalia is facing a fourth consecutive failed rainy season and an increased risk of famine with eight areas considered at risk of famine by September.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the current drought has affected seven million people and displaced more than 800,000 in search of food, water and pasture. Some 7.1 million people – 45% of the population – are acutely food insecure, while around 1.5 million children under five are acutely malnourished. At least 200 children have died of malnutrition and disease since January.
This year’s humanitarian response plan for Somalia targets around $1.5 billion to meet the country’s most critical humanitarian needs. So far, only 42.6% of this amount has been received.
During his visit to Baidoa, the UN Special Representative was accompanied by the Head of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Somalia, Frantz Celestin, and the Deputy Head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sanaa Omer. The trio met with representatives of various local civil society groups, including the Bay Women Association Network (BWN), the Allamagan Relief and Rehabilitation for Disabled People Organization, the Somali South West Non-State Actors (SOSWENSA) and the South West Youth Vision.
The visit was the UN Special Representative’s third such visit to one of Somalia’s Federal Member States this month, and was part of his regular engagement with Somali leaders. His two previous visits were to Puntland and Galmudug.