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, a major political crisis, 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.
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. Several parts of the country have reported an upsurge in inter-community clashes and violent conflict.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 667,000 Somali refugees live in neighbouring countries. A further 2.9 million people are displaced within Somalia, mainly due to conflict, drought and floods. The majority live in the over 2,300 sites for internally displaced people, in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. For most, there is little to no possibility of returning home.
Some 5.9 million people require humanitarian assistance in Somalia and the rate of malnutrition among children is critically high. The ongoing locust infestation is expected to have a significant impact on the next harvest. Almost 2.7 million people are expected to experience severe food insecurity by mid-2021; up from 1.1 million people at the end of 2020. This is further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which places extra pressure on Somalia’s already strained health system.
Current political instability may exacerbate all of the above depending on a peaceful resolution to the political stalemate, while elections have been postponed since February 2021. This situation may lead to further violence and displacement.
In 2021, the EU allocated €45.3 million in funding for humanitarian projects in Somalia. This amount includes €2.8 million in support of the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout. 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 those affected by conflict, drought or food shortages, to cover their most urgent needs. This assistance includes access to basic health and nutrition services, clean water, protection, shelter and education.
Last year, the EU also provided €9.5 million of humanitarian aid to help it tackle the locust outbreak and protect the livelihoods of affected farmers and pastoralists in Somalia. This effort is sustained in 2021, with €8 million allocated for the surveillance and control of desert locusts within the Horn of Africa, including Somalia.
During the coronavirus pandemic, EU-funded humanitarian projects in Somalia are adopting measures 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. The EU also organised 3 Humanitarian Air Bridge flights to Somalia in 2020. These flights transported much-needed health equipment to humanitarian partners in the country.
EU-funded humanitarian health actions continue helping local health centres and Somali hospitals in providing access to health care and epidemics prevention and control. Last year, a share of the EU’s humanitarian funding allocated to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its global coronavirus response was used to support Somalia’s health authorities. The aim was to scale up operational readiness for early detection and respond to large-scale community transmission.
Whenever relevant, EU humanitarian support helps 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. Besides, using cash transfers helps to overcome some of the accessibility challenges in the country, while at the same time supporting local markets.
Given Somalia’s high child and maternal mortality rate, severe malnutrition rates and frequent disease outbreaks, EU support in the country also focuses on the provision of quality health care and the emergency treatment of malnutrition through experienced health and nutrition implementation partners.
Somalia needs more long-term development 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.
In addition, the European Commission is providing €100 million in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in countries in Africa with critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems. At least €14 million out of this funding will be supporting vaccination campaigns for the most vulnerable in Eastern Africa.