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UNHCR’s Grandi sounds alarm as drought grips Horn of Africa

NAIROBI – As he concluded a five-day visit to Somalia and Kenya on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, called on global leaders to spare no efforts in assisting countries in the Horn of Africa to break the cycle of conflict and climate crises.

 

As people try to avert famine and seek safety, many have been forced to flee. According to the UNHCR-led Protection and Return Monitoring Network, in Somalia, the number of people displaced internally primarily by drought this year alone is nearing 1 million, with another nearly 500,000 displaced due to conflict and insecurity.

 

Many who have already been forced to flee violence have been displaced yet again by the worst drought in 40 years, brought on by four failed rainy seasons, with a fifth predicted. Globally, such extreme weather events are intensifying and becoming more frequent due to the climate crisis.

 

Despite urgent calls from humanitarian agencies active in Somalia, the catastrophic and multifaceted consequences are largely unnoticed as the world’s attention remains elsewhere.

 

While in Somalia, Grandi met with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and expressed solidarity with the people and government of Somalia at this difficult moment. “Under the leadership of Somalia’s authorities, we will continue to step up collective efforts to save lives. UNHCR teams are on the ground doing what they can to help, but we’ve secured funds to cover just a small percentage of the people in need,” Grandi said.

 

He also reaffirmed UNHCR’s commitment to supporting the country to pursue solutions for those who have been displaced.

 

In Galkacyo, Grandi met families who had trekked for days to reach displacement sites and heard of the heart-breaking choices they are making for survival, such as leaving behind loved ones or selling their assets to feed their children, and the particular consequences for women and children. “These families are the least responsible for global warming, yet they are being hit the hardest. It is tragic and it is shameful, and the world should not look away,” he said.

 

In Kenya, Grandi visited refugees in Dadaab and Kakuma, meeting with local and county authorities, host community members and partners.

 

In Dadaab, where Somali refugees have been living in camps for more than 30 years, Grandi saw first-hand how the drought is impacting displacement.

 

More than 50,000 Somali refugees who have arrived in recent years are in dire need of support. Some 20,000 have arrived this year alone. UNHCR is providing basic assistance and supporting local Kenyans with the provision of water and other aid.

 

“The drought impact in Kenya is not in the headlines, but it deserves as much attention from the international community,” Grandi said. “We must get the resources to do more for these arrivals from Somalia and affected Kenyans too.”

 

Grandi met with Kenyan President William Ruto and reaffirmed UNHCR’s commitment to work closely with his new administration on protection and solutions for refugees as well as to encourage more development support to host communities.

 

Kenya has provided international protection to refugees from across the region for more than three decades and currently hosts over half a million refugees and asylum-seekers.

 

In their meeting, Grandi and President Ruto agreed that allowing refugees to work and integrate with their host communities is the best option to end dependency on humanitarian aid.

 

“We have the opportunity for Kenya to be a leader in adopting a settlement model and to achieve sustainable solutions for refugees. We must take advantage of it,” Grandi said. “I call on the international community to support this promising approach.”

 

In Kalobeyei settlement, he saw how much the investments in development, such as the International Finance Corporation’s Kakuma-Kalobeyei Challenge Fund, an innovative private sector partnership, have already benefitted refugees and, more importantly, the host community.

 

“Since Kalobeyei was launched in 2016, it is impressive to see how much progress has been made in development, livelihoods and provision of social services, despite various challenges, despite COVID-19,” Grandi said. “We can’t let the momentum stall and are ready to continue our support to Kenya.”

 

 

 

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees