Message from the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Somalia, Mr Mark Bowden
Somalia is country of contradictions. The international perception of Somalia is of a seriously impoverished country that has suffered through almost two decades of conflict. Undoubtedly a large proportion of the Somali people have suffered one of the world’s longest lasting humanitarian crises. Levels of malnutrition are amongst the worst in the world and the scale of displacement and human suffering that result from conflict is unacceptably high. Yet those working with the UN agencies, funds and programmes in Somalia know that this is only part of the picture.
The other Somalia is a country where there are whole areas that have remained stable and conflict free, where the Somali people continue to prove their resilience with a growing economy and a vibrant export sector that now makes up 40 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. Last year nearly 3 million livestock were exported to the Arab gulf from Somalia’s main sea ports. The Somali telecoms sector is booming with six telecoms companies having invested in Somalia resulting in over 1.5 million mobile phone lines and 2 million internet users within Somalia. The Somali banking sector continues to grow with remittances from the Somali diaspora now topping over $1 billion USD every year. These are all signs for optimism, we must build upon these encouraging signs if we are to empower the Somali people to forge their own future and build a lasting peace.
At the same time we must address the pressing humanitarian needs of Somalia’s most vulnerable communities. Somalia remains one of the most complex environments for the delivery of assistance, making it much more difficult to reach these communities. To meet the challenges of the prevailing security situation we are adapting our programmes and activities, working more closely with local partners and communities to secure access, putting in place a rigorous approach to risk management to ensure our assistance is delivered where it is most needed.
The United Nations continues to make a real difference to the lives of ordinary Somalis with increasing numbers of children going to school and being vaccinated against deadly diseases. Roads, dams and agricultural assets are being rehabilitated to kick start the Somali economy and provide jobs. Even in the capital Mogadishu, the scene of some of the worst fighting, food is being still being delivered to over 340,000 residents.
Providing assistance against such a challenging backdrop is never going to be easy. But the international community must remain engaged and step up its commitment if we are to prevent further suffering and help build a lasting peace across Somalia and the wider region.