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    Joint Press Conference at conclusion of visit to Somalia by OCHA and FAO Deputy Heads

    Mogadishu – With nearly 7 million people in Somalia – or two out of every five people – in need of life-saving assistance this year, and 1.7 million children likely to suffer from acute malnutrition, the deputy heads of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) went on a field mission to the country to urge continued global support for Somalis suffering the effects of hunger, conflict and climate change. 

    While in Somalia, the OCHA Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Joyce Msuya, and FAO Deputy Director-General, Beth Bechdol, met people on the frontlines of the climate crisis – as well as Government officials, donor partners, and aid workers looking to scale up response efforts. 

    The three-day mission concluded with a joint press conference in Mogadishu. Please read the transcript of their opening statements below. 

    Assistant Secretary-General Musya: Good afternoon, members of the media and those who have joined online. Assalam alaikum. We have spent, and my colleague Beth [Bechdol, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)] will speak, we have spent about two and a half days here in Somalia. I want first to start by expressing my deepest, deepest thanks to the Government and people of Somalia for an incredible warm hospitality and welcome that has made this visit very possible. 

    Everywhere I have gone, I have been deeply moved by the strength, by the resilience, by the courage, by the commitment starting from the communities all the way up to the Government at the federal level for the people of Somalia.

    I saw the strength yesterday on International Women’s Day – I had the privilege of visiting Kaharey and Qansahley camps for internally displaced people in Doolow. What impressed me is how cohesive the host communities and the IDPs [internally displaced people] were living, hand in hand in peace. I was also inspired and touched by the women, including a 17-year-old, Fatma, who was kind enough to actually paint henna on my hands – a gift that I will take with me as I leave this country to go to New York to tell her story and the story of Somali people, the strength of communities. The backbone strength of Somali women, entrepreneurs, farmers who have gone through the swamp much that yet have the courage to keep on going – that gave me hope on International Women’s Day.

    I also heard the combined efforts – and I wanted to congratulate the Government of Somalia – for the deep, deep commitment to working with humanitarian and development partners, including the UN agencies, NGOs, our local partners, to provide assistance to the Somali people. The community participation, particularly in providing humanitarian assistance, is incredibly impressive. 

    If you look at the climate change impact on the people of Somalia – from drought, flooding and everything in between – it is really impressive to see how farming was averted with all the collective efforts of all the factories. But also, as one of the ministers mentioned when we met, and I quote, “Somalia is a victim of secondhand smoking.” Somalia suffers from climate change, a problem that they did not generate, and yet, year by year, they have to deal with the impact of climate change. 

    Our visit is also timely because just about a week or so ago, the whole world met in Nairobi at the United Nations Environment Assembly. Our visit is a continuation of the global commitment, including but not limited from the humanitarian community, to address climate change as a driver for humanitarian [needs]. 

    Having said that, I want to be very clear that the worst from climate change is far from over. Somalia’s future and the lives of millions of people hang on a very, very tight balance. One in five people in Somalia have so little food that their lives or livelihoods are in immediate danger. Some 1.7 million people face acute malnutrition. This year, we are targeting 5.2 billion people out of 6.9 million people in need. And our mission, our visit here was aimed at actually advocating for more support, international support, to Somalia, on humanitarian, as well as climate and development, and my colleague will speak more about that. 

    As is often the case, women and girls bear the largest brunt of crisis and also climate change. As I mentioned in my comments just a couple of minutes ago, yesterday, we had a chance to interact with the communities with women farmers, IDPs, a woman who has lived in an IDP camp for 10 years, and yet she was farming, and out of the products from the farm, managed to buy a goat, which provided her family with nutritious goat milk for the children and also allowed her to send her children to school. As we leave Somalia, we will take her story and many, including what we heard from the humanitarian partners, to the outside world. 

    We were very impressed by the local partners, the local and national NGOs, and the humanitarian community is benefiting from working very, very closely together. A core part of our job after we leave Somalia is to mobilize, to ask for more support from finding partners to help support the Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia for 2024. 

    I want to express our thanks, my thanks, to the funding partners, to the humanitarian community, including local partners, for all the investments that they are doing in service of Somalia’s people. We leave this beautiful country, I will leave this beautiful country, ahead of Ramadan next week, with a deep sense of humility and a deep commitment to continue serving, not just the world, but also the people of Somalia. 

    Thank you very much. Shukran. 

    Deputy Director-General Bechol: Thank you very much to everyone gathered here – to members of the media. 

    It is very much a pleasure to be here alongside Joyce, our colleagues and OCHA based in New York, and to be able to be here representing the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, headquartered in Rome. I think this is a very important demonstration, and what I hope becomes a new approach to collaboration and partnership among many of us inside the UN family – to ensure that we are really delivering on the very important needs that we see here in a country like Somalia. 

    This is my first visit to Somalia and, as Joyce mentioned into her comments, it will forever be one that remains with me – very deep felt, a very inspiring opportunity – and one where I have learned quite a bit. It is one where I think, as we recognize from our various meetings and discussions, perceptions that many have are corrected from a visit such as this. 

    This is a Somalia that is not the same country that it was 10 or 20 years ago, and the efforts that the Federal Government, the people of Somalia, partners, donors, and local actors have all put into transforming and bringing peace, stability and commitments to development despite some incredibly formidable challenges and obstacles – some of which admittedly still remain. It is certainly something that I think we have taken away from our time here. 

    As I said, significant challenges still remain and Joyce mentioned, just a number of the data points that continue to concern all of us. Despite some improvements, 3.4 million people are expected to face acute food insecurity in this country in the coming months. Between 2021 and 2023, we saw the deep-felt challenges of a drought that served to be the longest in recorded history, pushing the country to the brink of famine. At the same time – very unexpectedly and probably one of the more unique situations of any country in the world – this was immediately followed at the end of last year by a series of devastating floods. Also, the worst on record. Those are formidable obstacles and huge challenges to try to overcome. 

    What has helped in recent years has indeed been the very strong level of commitment provided by humanitarian donors, that is still needed in this particular period that the country finds itself in. But it is time to start transitioning to more development support for the country and the people – that’s so critical. We see that through our lens of FAO and the lens of food and agricultural production and productivity through the need to really transform agrifood systems here in the country. 

    This we admittedly see around the world, whether it is the impacts that have been felt due to the global COVID-19 pandemic – the challenges that it brought economically for all countries of the world, the challenges that it brought to logistics and supply chains, the challenges that then have emerged because of the climate crisis, again, affecting every person on this planet and affecting food and agriculture in every corner of the world. These types of developments along with instability, conflict and war that have played in in so many parts of the world, are showing the fragility and the sensitivities of our food and agricultural systems. So, it’s time to change. 

    What I have observed here, is the start of what I think is very transformative change in the way Somali food and agriculture is handled. This comes from the Government itself, with a real commitment to transform, to invest, to make it more progressive, to be more innovative, and to really commit to the building blocks of what’s needed in a constructive, productive and ultimately, profitable, food and agriculture economy. It is quality seeds, livestock productivity, training, research extension for smallholder farmers around the country. It manifests in the commitment to addressing long standing water issues the need for better irrigation management. It’s manifesting itself in a commitment to try to bring forward real, tangible solutions to this climate variability that frankly, won’t stop. We won’t see an end to this climate crisis. We will see ourselves finding new ways to adapt and to mitigate the crisis itself. And, we are seeing that happening here already. 

    I am also very proud of FAO, because the commitment to good solid information, data and analysis and predictive modelling and forecasting is so core to our mandate. I give great credit to the FAO Somalia team who is here in this event that we are having with the media today. It’s been said to me many times in just the last two days that the team here, representing FAO, because of the predictive work ahead of this most recent flood and the commitments that were taken to try to prevent that, saved 1000s of lives. That’s meaningful and important impact that has taken many of us to really deliver and those are the things that we need to do more of. 

    Like Joyce, I was so moved by our visits yesterday to Doolow and the opportunity to celebrate International Women’s Day – not only with her, but with so many of our current friends and new friends that we were able to spend that day with. 

    It is so critical in the food and agriculture system that we lift up with it women. And it is not just because of the opportunities that are presented to them. It’s because they’re already the backbone. On the African continent, two-thirds of the work that is done in food and agriculture is done by women. 

    There is more opportunity, there is more visibility. There are more tools and resources that need to be brought to bear. But I see the potential here of women and girls and youth in general, to find an opportunity in a future in agriculture in Somalia. I hope that is something that all of us can continue to work on. 

    Let me just close with a few thank yous and also a few notes of optimism about how we work together and what I think this trip, that we both made, can do to set things into a new direction for our work here. 

    First, I just want to say that we all recognise, what is maybe manifested by this joint visit and what we see more broadly as members of the UN family – business as usual doesn’t work any longer. We see it as FAO. We see that old programmes, old approaches, old siloed ways of supporting farmers and communities just do not work any longer. The size of the crisis is too big, the resources needed by the minute, the new partners that have new things to offer – like the private sector, whether it is data, innovation technologies that aren’t invented in organizations like ours or in the UN system. 

    We have to find ways to collaborate to bring better types of solutions, more immediate or urgent and more fit-for-purpose solutions forward. And I think this visit highlights the fact that there is already a strong sense of that cooperation here. Joyce and I are certainly committed to making sure that inside our UN family, we do better together and bring examples of stories of need and success from Somalia back to our colleagues in New York, Rome and Geneva and elsewhere. But it is going to take a large percentage of partners so she has them to really deliver on the needs here. 

    Lastly, I too would just want to thank and give a very strong signal of support and commendation to the Government. We’ve had such wonderful discussions and meetings. I am so impressed by the level of commitment, the level of technical knowledge and understanding of needs, and the priorities that are so clearly and so succinctly being laid out by, whether it is the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, the Ministry of Livestock and Fishery Development, and the Ministry of Energy and Water, and the collected cooperation that is happening is even more important. So, we want to again, thank everyone who made this trip so meaningful, making the visits so impactful, and we they just would like to signal one more time that this is certainly an opportunity for us to rally and to bring so many of our other colleagues and partners and stakeholders together to do more to advance the priorities and the needs of everyone who is here in Somalia. 

    Thank you.

    We acknowledge for the information.


    • Faisal Al-Thani

      As a journalist, Faisal Al-Thani is passionate about uncovering untold narratives. With a focus on investigative reporting, Faisal seeks to shed light on important issues and amplify diverse voices. Opinions his own.


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