Somalia has suffered for decades from prolonged conflict combined with extreme weather, especially recurrent droughts and floods. Against a background of widespread poverty, it is now also facing the worst desert locust infestation in 25 years and a rapidly escalating coronavirus outbreak. EU humanitarian funding is helping aid organisations in Somalia provide life-saving assistance to vulnerable people, including those affected by conflict, drought or food shortages. A share of the EU’s humanitarian funding allocated to the World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting the Somali health authorities’ response to coronavirus.
For almost 3 decades, conflict has been the main driver of Somalia’s humanitarian crisis. Insurgent armed groups remain the biggest source of insecurity, carrying out indiscriminate attacks on Somalis, kidnappings and forcefully recruiting children. Pervasive insecurity in Somalia impedes access for humanitarian organisations and restricts the ability of Somalis to support themselves economically. As of 2020, several parts of the country have reported an upsurge in cross-community clashes and violent conflict.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 760,000 Somali refugees live in neighbouring countries. A further 2.6 million Somalis are displaced inside Somalia, mainly due to widespread conflict and/or drought and floods.
The majority live in the over 2,000 sites for internally displaced people, in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. For most, there is little to no possibility of returning to their place of origin.
There are 5.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia and the rate of malnutrition among children is critically high. Humanitarian needs are at risk of rising further due to the ongoing locust infestation, the worst Somalia has seen in 25 years, which is expected to have a significant impact on the next harvest. This is further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which places extra pressure on Somalia’s already strained health system.
In 2020, the EU is providing €51.2 million in funding for humanitarian projects in Somalia. Together, the EU and its Member States provide over 35% of all humanitarian aid in Somalia.
EU humanitarian funding supports aid organisations delivering life-saving assistance to vulnerable people, including people affected by conflict, drought or food shortages, to enable them to meet their most urgent needs. This assistance includes food, shelter, access to clean water and basic health services, protection and education. Earlier in 2020, the EU has also provided €11 million to the UN’s FAO to help it tackle the locust outbreak and protect the livelihoods of affected farmers and pastoralists in the region. Following the recent torrential rains that caused devastating floods and landslides across the region, the EU mobilised €1.4 million in emergency assistance to respond to immediate needs in Somalia.
In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, EU-funded humanitarian projects in Somalia are adopting measures within their actions and adapting to the new challenges to help beneficiaries and staff keep safe, while continuing to provide life-saving assistance to support vulnerable communities. These actions are complementing ongoing efforts by the Ministry of Health of Somalia and are implemented in line with the COVID-19 Country Preparedness and Response Plan for Somalia.
EU-funded humanitarian actions already focusing on the health sector will continue helping local health centres and Somali hospitals in providing access to health care and in epidemics control and prevention. In addition, a share of the EU’s humanitarian aid funding allocated to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its global coronavirus response is going towards supporting Somalia’s health authorities to scale up operational readiness for early detection and response to large-scale community transmission in Somalia.
Whenever possible, rather than in-kind aid, EU-funded support in Somalia reaches the people in need through cash transfers. This system enables households to buy what they urgently need to feed and sustain their family with education for children and health care for the sick. In addition, using cash transfers helps to overcome some of the accessibility challenges that exist in the country.
Given Somalia’s high child and maternal mortality rate, severe malnutrition rates and frequent disease outbreaks, EU support in Somalia also focuses on the provision of quality healthcare and the emergency treatment of malnutrition through experienced health and nutrition implementation partners.
More long-term development is needed in Somalia to prevent vulnerable people, such as pastoral and agricultural communities, from sliding back into crisis. Cooperation between the EU’s humanitarian and development actions is ongoing, especially for cash-based safety nets and education, to build up the longer-term resilience of fragile Somali communities.