WFP chief calls for five-pronged action plan for Somalia


World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Cindy McCain has called for a five-pronged action plan to address the serious and growing emergency in Somalia.

First, she called on all UN member states to contribute to the humanitarian response plan for Somalia, which is seriously underfunded.

The WFP is forced to cut back on life-saving assistance programs, just when they are needed the most, she told the Security Council in a briefing.

“By December 2022, we were reaching a record 4.7 million people per month with food assistance — thanks to donors’ efforts to stop famine in its tracks. But at the end of April (2023), we had to reduce our caseload to 3 million per month. And without an immediate cash injection, we’ll have to cut our distribution lists again in July to just 1.8 million per month,” she said. “That’s almost 3 million women, children and men who will be denied the assistance they desperately need, simply because we do not have the money to feed them.”

In her briefing, Catriona Laing, the UN secretary-general’s special representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, told the Security Council that the 2023 UN humanitarian response plan for Somalia needs more than 2.6 billion U.S. dollars. The plan is less than 30 percent funded halfway through the year.

McCain said Somalia was hauled back from the abyss of famine in 2022 because the international community saw the warning signs flashing red and raced to respond. Donors funded an unprecedented humanitarian scale-up. But now there is a risk of losing the precious gains that were made last year.

Second, McCain called for efforts to ensure life-saving humanitarian assistance reaches the people of Somalia.

This means ensuring operations are run with maximum efficiency to stretch every donor dollar as far as possible. The WFP has the largest presence of any UN agency in Somalia, with 13 offices across the country. It is working hard to ensure its assistance reaches those in greatest need, she said.

Third, food assistance must be matched with investments to rebuild livelihoods, strengthen resilience and support climate adaptation programs. These proven solutions are the only way to finally break the vicious cycle of hunger and poverty, said McCain.

Fourth, the Security Council must spearhead efforts to secure unimpeded humanitarian access to all vulnerable communities in Somalia. Too often, civilians living in territories controlled by armed groups are cut off from humanitarian assistance, because access is denied or the safety of aid workers is threatened. This has to end, she said.

Fifth, political solutions need to be found to create stability and peace in Somalia. This is what the exhausted people of Somalia want and need, above all, she said.

“The WFP is ready to play our full part and help Somalia lay the foundations for long-term food security, and an end to the scourge of hunger. But peace requires political will and leadership,” she said.

McCain, who went to Somalia last month, said she was horrified and heartbroken by what she saw: violence, fear and starvation.

The violence and instability which scars the country has destroyed much of the infrastructure needed to support food production and distribution. What has not been wrecked by conflict has been consumed by Somalia’s climate crisis, which its people did not cause. The longest drought on record killed millions of livestock and decimated crops. It has recently given way to disastrous flash floods in the south of the country, she said.

Inevitably, huge numbers of people have been forced from their homes and lands in search of food and safety. Since the start of 2022, conflict has triggered over 1 million internal displacements. Climate disasters have fueled a further 2.1 million displacements over the past three years, she said.

The latest food security data show that food insecurity is spiraling across Somalia. Over 6.6 million people — one-third of the population — are expected to face crisis or worse levels of hunger. This includes 40,000 people fighting for survival in famine-like conditions. Even worse, 1.8 million children are expected to suffer acute malnutrition in 2023, she said.