By John Ikani
Pope Francis on Sunday called for international help for Somalia to fight a “deadly” drought that the UN says has displaced one million people.
Speaking after his weekly Angelus prayer at the Vatican, the 85-year-old pontiff told pilgrims and tourists in the square that he wanted to draw attention “to the grave humanitarian crisis that has hit Somalia and some areas of bordering countries”.
Appealing for urgent food aid to stave off looming famine in Somalia, the Pope said: “the people of this region, who already live in very precarious conditions, are now in mortal danger because of drought.”
“I hope that international solidarity can respond to this emergency.
“Unfortunately, war diverts attention and resources, but these are the goals that demand the most commitment — the fight against hunger, health, education.”
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said this month that it could officially declare famine in eight regions of Somalia next month if livestock continue to die, key commodity prices rise further and humanitarian assistance fails to reach the most vulnerable.
Somalia and its neighbours in the Horn of Africa including Ethiopia and Kenya are gripped by the worst drought in more than 40 years after four failed rainy seasons that have decimated crops and livestock.
More than 755,000 people have fled their homes but remain within Somalia’s borders, which, when added to those who have fled abroad, brings the total to a million, the UN refugee agency UNHCR and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said Thursday.
Conflict-wracked Somalia is particularly ill-equipped to cope with the situation, with a grinding Islamist insurgency limiting humanitarian access to parts of the country. Al-Shabaab militants have ratcheted up their attacks in recent months.