Coordinate aid and build for long term, agencies urged

Aid agencies operating in Somalia should improve coordination among themselves and explore concrete measures beyond the drought and famine ravaging parts of the country to improve livelihoods and build the resilience of affected communities, humanitarian officials said on 15 August.

"Today is about tomorrow; about what we need to do for recovery and sustainable development, not just fire-fighting," Hanny el Banna, chairman of The Humanitarian Forum, said in Nairobi during a conference on aid collaboration for the Horn of Africa.

"The humanitarian family needs to come up with solutions as we know the suffering of the people."

The Humanitarian Forum, a global network of aid and development organizations from Muslim donor and recipient countries, convened the day-long conference with the Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) to address the urgent aid needs in the Horn of Africa.

The UN has declared famine in five regions of south-central Somalia and estimates that at least 12.4 million people across the Horn (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti) require life-saving assistance.

Representatives of Muslim charities, UN agencies, as well as those of donor organizations and countries, discussed ways and means of improving connections and collaboration in partnership with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Among the issues discussed was access to parts of Somalia by Muslim humanitarian organizations and the need to engage the Somali community and the diaspora in capacity-building aimed at improving livelihoods.

According to The Humanitarian Forum, Muslim agencies have access to different donors and better access in different parts of Somalia. Participants heard that the OIC was in the process of creating an umbrella group for Muslim international NGOs working in Somalia.

Long-term thinking

Abdo Mohammed Al Taki, who represented the Islamic Development Bank, said there was a need to focus on development, not just relief aid.

Mark Bowden, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, said humanitarian activities should lead to a better future in terms of development.

He added that although there had been "a lot of progress, there is still much complexity and challenge... Somalia is at the epicentre of a regional crisis."

''There is a huge problem in Somalia at the moment, no one single organization can do it alone, we have to work with each other''

Kiki Gbeho, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Somalia, said aid delivery, access to communities in need and funding gaps were among the challenges facing humanitarian agencies in Somalia.

"With the proliferation of so many organizations on the ground, there is a need for better coordination; there is a huge problem in Somalia at the moment, no one single organization can do it alone, we have to work with each other," Gbeho said.

Food prices have risen sharply across Somalia, "by 270 percent in some areas", Gbeho said, adding that 3.7 million Somalis were now in crisis, mostly in the south.

James Shaw-Hamilton, director of The Humanitarian Forum, said he hoped the conference would be the "start of an ongoing conversation among the wide group of participants".