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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 April 2018

UN seeks UAE aid for Somalia crisis

The United Nations is appealing to the UAE to provide assistance to people who are starving in Africa.

DUBAI // The United Nations will appeal to the Government today to help millions of people in the Horn of Africa facing starvation during the worst drought in six decades.

The UN refugee agency will formally ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to contribute to its global appeal for just over Dh500 million, launched last Friday to provide assistance to Somalis who are fleeing to neighbouring countries. Violence in the war-torn nation compounds the crisis.

"We will appeal to the UAE for direct intervention," said Brigitte Khair Mountain, head of office and senior adviser for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"This is beyond a tragedy. The situation is escalating very quickly. It would be very timely if the UAE would donate," Ms Mountain said. The country had been "forthcoming" in its recent efforts to aid Libyan refugees, she said.

The organisation discussed the unfolding humanitarian tragedy with ministry officials this week, and sought their support verbally, after launching the global appeal.

Aid agencies working in the region have been overwhelmed by the crisis, which has also affected Ethiopia, Kenya, central and southern Somalia and Djibouti.

Somalia has been the worst hit. The UN estimates that a quarter of its 7.5 million people have been either internally displaced or are living outside the country as refugees.

Ms Mountain said as many as 60 children were dying each day. Their mothers, she said, had been reduced to "walking skeletons" as they sought refuge in neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The refugee agency will also seek assistance from the Red Crescent and the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation. UN officials said they also hoped Emiratis and other residents would step in to do their part, with Ramadan only a few weeks away.

The UAE ranks first among GCC nations with individual contributions in 2010 and this year. UAE donations were particularly strong during the Pakistan flood crisis. Exact figures are not available.

The Office for Co-ordination of Foreign Aid (OCFA) is gathering information about the UAE's humanitarian response to the crisis, said Sultan Al Shamsi, the agency's executive director. He urged donor organisations to record their activities with OCFA by sending emails to fsu@ocfa.gov.ae.

Humanity First Middle East, in International Humanitarian City in Dubai, will launch a three-month fundraising campaign on Friday to coincide with its global appeal, urging Emiratis and expatriates to donate.

"We are setting up three camps in North East Kenya," said Farooq Ahmad Khalid, the campaign's director. "Our immediate focus is on providing food, water and sanitation."

The campaign will run on community websites such as Dubizzle, and volunteers will also contact people by e-mail and telephone to raise money.

The World Food Programme (WFP), which has an emergency readiness and fast-intervention base for non-food items in Dubai, is also monitoring the situation.

"We are at all times equipped to dispatch emergency relief supplies including vehicles, and IT and telecommunications equipment and personnel," said Bill Campbell, the officer in charge at WFP Dubai. He estimated that the number of hungry people in the region would increase from its current six million to ten million.

The UAE Red Crescent also has been conducting emergency operations and co-ordinating relief programmes in Somalia since last year. Its programmes include water and food distribution to more than 50,000 people, drilling wells in six locations to provide stability to internally displaced people, and cash contributions to support the Kenyan Red Cross.

Donations can be made direct to Humanity First Middle East's Dubai Islamic Bank account number 16-520-3006069-01, or at the international aid agency's website, www.humanityfirst.org.uk

pkannan@thenational.ae