The failure of successive rainy seasons across the Horn of Africa region has led to severe water and food shortages, while the long-standing Somali conflict continues to hamper access to populations in need. Of the 2.1 million internally displaced Somalis, more than 1 million were uprooted from their homes in 2017 alone. The EU has drastically scaled up its assistance, thus helping to avert a catastrophe similar to the 2011 famine which resulted in 260 000 deaths; however, famine continues to be a real possibility in 2018.
More than half of Somalia’s 12 million inhabitants are food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance. An estimated 1.2 million children are expected to be acutely malnourished, including 232 000 who will suffer life-threatening severe acute malnutrition. The mass displacement of populations in often insalubrious conditions is worrisome and makes them vulnerable to eviction, exploitation and abuse. In 2017, health authorities and partners succeeded in containing a serious cholera epidemic. Disease outbreaks such as cholera and measles are the cause of preventable deaths across the country, with 78 560 and 20 809 cases reported respectively in 2017.
The prolonged drought has been devastating for vulnerable communities, many of which never fully recovered from the 2011–12 famine. They also suffer from the longstanding conflict and a lack of basic services. With their coping mechanisms severely eroded, drought-affected populations will continue to rely on humanitarian assistance in 2018. More than 870 000 Somalis are refugees in neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti or Ethiopia. Despite the drought, voluntary repatriation from Kenya has continued with more than 70 000 returns since 2014. The EU’s position is that any repatriation should be voluntary, informed, safe, and dignified.
The European Union continues to step up humanitarian aid for the conflict and drought affected populations in Somalia. Responding to the early warning signs in late 2016, the European Commission mobilised considerable funding for the drought response, totalling €119 million in 2017. These funds enable partners to provide life-saving aid in the regions hardest hit by the water and food shortages, as well as disease outbreaks. The international aid effort, which reaches 3 million people each month, has so far helped to avert famine and curtail food price increases. Together, the European Commission and EU Member States currently provide approximately 60% of all humanitarian aid in Somalia.
The delivery of food assistance through cash has been a priority. 100 000 of the most needy households - about 600 000 people - have been reached with EU-funded cash grants in 2017. Giving people cash to buy essential goods in the dynamic market context of Somalia is proving to be an effective and dignified way of giving assistance.
Other aid includes emergency preparedness and response, health and nutrition care, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, protection and education. With acute malnutrition exceeding emergency thresholds in many areas, the EU supports the treatment of severely malnourished children. Countrywide, more than 310 000 children were reached with therapeutic feeding and care in 2017 thanks to the support of the donor community and the efforts of local staff.
Health care is another priority given the perennially high child and maternal mortality rates, and recurring epidemics. EU humanitarian aid supports hospitals in Mogadishu, Kismayo and elsewhere; numerous health facilities catering to the displaced; and emergency teams responding to disease outbreaks. Aid operations are aiming to reach the hardest hit regions in the country despite the access challenges.
The European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department has provided humanitarian assistance in Somalia since 1994. In recent years, internally displaced families have received assistance to return home. More long-term development is needed to prevent people from sliding back into crisis and coordination between the EU humanitarian and development departments is ongoing to that effect.
The Commission’s humanitarian partners in Somalia operate in a dangerous and challenging context. Access to populations remains a constant struggle and violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law are common. The European Commission is committed to preserving the humanitarian space and independence of humanitarian aid in order to reach all people in need.