By Dipo Olowookere
Millions of people are living in desperate conditions in Somalia as extreme drought is threatening the lives and stability of a country vital to regional and UK security.
Ms Patel led a roundtable with humanitarian partners during her visit, to hear about the drought situation on the ground, how they are responding to it, and to discuss how the UK and international community can work together to save lives and prevent a catastrophic famine.
The 2015/16 El Nino is one of the strongest on record and has severely impacted Africa. In Somalia, conditions are worsening with daily reports of rivers drying up, crops failing, and people and livestock dying. As many as 3.9 million people need urgent assistance and 320,000 children are severely malnourished.
In the face of these famine-like conditions Ms Patel announced a UK package of support, which will provide food for 60,000 people, provide urgent nutrition support for 240,000 children and pregnant women, give safe water for 180,000 people, create access to health service for 75,000 people; and help with vaccinations for 3 million animals.
Ms Priti Patel said: Millions of people are living in desperate conditions as extreme drought threatens the lives and stability of a country vital to regional and UK security. I urge our international partners to join forces with Global Britain and provide immediate support for the relief effort.
“Building a secure, stable and prosperous Somalia is a top priority for the UK and while great progress has been made, significant challenges remain. Together in partnership we can meet those challenges.”
Ms Patel also sought the humanitarian partners’ commitment to the London Somalia Conference objectives and to agree to work together to ensure it will address the drought response and deliver the international support needed to resolve Somalia’s protracted crises.
The UK is playing a leading role in the wider international response to the ongoing drought in East Africa – where people desperately need the UK’s support.
After visiting Somalia, Ms Patel attended a humanitarian panel discussion in Ethiopia with the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen.
Ms Patel highlighted that humanitarian reform is one of the top priorities for the UK and that she is committed to making the international system more effective at responding to global challenges that pose risks to both Africa and the UK. This is to ensure support is maximised to those affected by crisis and guaranteeing value for money.
The International Development Secretary also emphasised her concerns for people suffering from the Horn of Africa drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya and urged humanitarian partners to accelerate joint efforts for an early response that will save lives.
Ms Patel outlined that increased UK support is helping 800,000 people in Ethiopia including emergency nutrition treatment for 25,000 malnourished children; clean water for 100,000 people; and vaccination and treatment for 600,000 cattle.
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