UN Refugee Agency ‘Not Doing Enough’ to Assist Somalis Fleeing Famine

The United Nations refugee agency hasn’t done enough to meet the needs of Somalis that have fled famine because of the region’s worst drought in 60 years, its chief, Antonio Guterres, said.

The world’s “worst humanitarian tragedy” is being experienced in famine-hit Somalia, Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, today.

“The UNHCR, as many other humanitarian organizations, needs to have the humility to recognize that we are not doing enough inside Somalia,” Guterres said. “That what we are doing is out of proportion with the needs of the people. We need to scale up and we need to intensify our efforts.”

The Horn of Africa drought has triggered a famine in southern Somalia and Somaliland, and led to food shortages in Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia, affecting an estimated 12.4 million people in the region, according to the UN. Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee complex at Kenya’s border with Somalia, now hosts 440,000 people in a space designed 20 years ago to house 90,000.

The $1.4 billion in donor pledges received so far to address the crisis falls short of the total funding requirement of $2.4 billion, according to the UN. The refugee agency is among the donors distributing medical aid, high-energy foods, water, shelter, plastic sheeting, blankets and cooking utensils in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and camps in the region.

“We don’t expect a new harvest before the end of the year,” Guterres said. “The rains are supposed to come in October but rains do not bring food immediately.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at smcgregor5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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