International donors are responding adequately to the food crisis in Somalia but are falling far short of supplying required amounts of aid in South Sudan, a United Nations humanitarian aid director has said.
“The needs are escalating, but the response is currently keeping pace with those needs,” UN official John Ging told reporters Tuesday at a briefing on his recent monitoring visit to the towns of Baidoa and Kismayo in Somalia.
The UN has appealed for $825 million to help stave off famine in Somalia and has so far received $558 million in donations, Mr Ging said.
That nearly 70 per cent response rate is “quite unprecedented,” he noted.
Of even greater significance, Mr Ging added, is the $1.2 billion in remittances that Somalis living abroad send annually to their families.
In South Sudan, by contrast, a $1.6 billion UN appeal is only 27 percent funded, Mr Ging said. The $438 million contributed to date is “insufficient to keep pace” with hunger in a country where 100,000 people are living in officially declared famine zones.
Another one million South Sudanese are in danger of experiencing famine, Mr Ging emphasised.
A team of UN officials, including Mr Ging, recently visited the towns of Wau and Mayendit in South Sudan.
Asked to explain the difference in donors’ response, he said the South Sudan government has not fulfilled its stated commitment to making dangerous parts of the country accessible to aid providers.
“We see a gap between statements of the government — comments made by the president and others — and actions on the ground,” Mr Ging declared
Violence has claimed the lives of 82 aid workers since the start of South Sudan’s civil war in 2013, he noted. Nine employees of humanitarian organisations have been killed in just the past month, Mr Ging added.
In Somalia, on the other hand, the recently installed government headed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is engaged in “a very strong partnership with international organisations,” he said.
In addition, Mr Ging continued, the UN and donor countries are determined to prevent a recurrence of the 2011 famine in Somalia that claimed an estimated 260,000 lives. “We were collectively seen as not responding quickly enough” to that emergency, he said.
Compared with the situation in 2011, Mr Ging added, aid workers today enjoy greater access to parts of Somalia controlled by Al-Shabaab.
He warned, however, that Somalia is experiencing a “very fast-moving crisis” with a rising peril of famine. More than six million Somalis are in need of humanitarian assistance, Mr Ging said, noting that 571,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the past six months due to drought-caused food shortages.
Somalia is also grappling with outbreaks of cholera and measles, he said.
“This crisis is going to continue to grow, Mr Ging predicted. A failure of the upcoming rainy season in Somalia will make dire circumstances worse, he said, warning, “People have exhausted their coping mechanisms.”