Mogadishu, Somalia, Mar 7 – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrived in Somalia Tuesday to discuss a hunger crisis which has pushed the country to the verge of famine with new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.
“The combination of conflict, drought, climate change, diseases and cholera is a nightmare,” Guterres told journalists during the flight to Mogadishu.
“It’s essentially a visit of solidarity with Somalia. We are trying to put in place a response mechanism… for trying to prevent the worst”.
Guterres will meet the newly elected president, better known by his nickname Farmajo, in the highly secured airport zone, which is protected by African Union peacekeepers and which houses the offices of the UN and humanitarian organisations.
It is only the third visit by a UN secretary general to Somalia since 1993 — two years after then president Siad Barre was overthrown, plunging the country into civil war.
Guterres’ predecessor Ban Ki-moon visited in 2011 just months after the country’s last famine which was Africa’s worst in 20 years and left 260,000 people dead. He returned in 2014.
A fierce drought has left some three million people in Somalia facing severe hunger and placed the country on famine alert.
On Saturday Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said at least 110 people had died in 48 hours from “droughts and acute watery diarrhoea” caused by lack of food, medicine and access to safe drinking water.
In South Sudan 100,000 people are already suffering from a “man-made” famine due to three years of civil war.
This means 20 percent of the population in the affected area has extremely limited access to basic food, acute malnutrition is higher than 30 percent, and more than two per 10,000 people are dying every day.
Overall, more than 20 million people face starvation in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria in an unprecedented four simultaneous famine alerts.