OCHA calls for UN Support against ‘triple threat’ of COVID-19, Flooding and Desert Locusts in the Horn of Africa

Locust swarms devastating Somaliland

Somalilandsun: At a briefing on 8th July 2020 for United Nations Member States on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, OCHA called for more support to help vulnerable people in the region grapple with the “triple threat” of COVID-19, major flooding and desert locusts.

The virtual briefing was chaired and moderated by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, who highlighted that humanitarian needs are rising across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia as a result of multiple, simultaneous and compounding shocks, including the worst desert locust upsurge in generations, recurring and increasing floods affecting millions of people, and the COVID-19 pandemic – sometimes referred to as the “triple threat” – in addition to conflict-related issues.

“There is COVID in all three countries. We see an immediate impact on health-care systems already, including an immediate impact on routine immunizations and sexual and reproductive health care. At the same time, we’ve seen a lot of disruption and displacement from flooding, and that brings with it the risk of waterborne diseases, potentially including malaria and acute watery diarrhoea,” said Mr. Lowcock.

In addition, the UN humanitarian chief said that the desert locust situation remains extremely serious, threatening pastures and crops in the three countries.

Mr. Lowcock emphasized that despite the current COVID-19 context, aid organizations are remaining on the ground, continuing life-saving programmes while ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers.

In Somalia, humanitarian actors have managed to significantly scale up food assistance, from reaching an average 700,000 people a month with food or cash in March, to 1.6 million people in April and 2.3 million people in May.

Mr. Lowcock noted that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are essential to this delivery, as evidenced by the fact that they have received more than 96 per cent of the funds disbursed by the OCHA-managed Somalia Humanitarian Fund between 2017 and 2019, and 84.5 per cent of the funds disbursed in 2020.

Partners in Ethiopia have collectively reprogrammed more than $150 million in support of the national strategic preparedness and response efforts and continue to deliver assistance. Similarly, in Kenya, UN partners redeployed $45 million to support Kenya in its response to the pandemic in addition to deploying over 70 staff and volunteers to assist the Government.

The UN has also stood up its airbridge capacity established in the wake of the pandemic, with Addis Ababa providing an essential service for all humanitarian partners, including NGOs. In addition, the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has airlifted 45 metric tons of equipment and supplies to various parts of Somalia, including urgently needed medical supplies.

Panellists at the briefing included Dr. Catherine Sozi, the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia, who spoke about the humanitarian needs in the country and tackling the threat of COVID-19. She also stressed that despite the increasing humanitarian needs, the Ethiopia 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan is currently only 27.7 per cent funded.

“This is 10 per cent less than at the same time last year, and the lowest level in the past five years. Resource mobilization efforts are ongoing with the donors in-country and globally, but further support is required to meet the humanitarian needs as described,” said Dr. Sozi.

Also speaking at the briefing were Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim, the Convener of the ASAL Humanitarian Network in Kenya, who discussed the impact of locusts on livelihoods; and Ms. Nimo Hassan, Director of the Somalia NGO Consortium, who focused on the particular impact flooding has had on humanitarian needs in the country. Representatives from the Permanent Missions to the UN of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia also participated.

Read: Locust swarms devastating Somaliland

At the closing of the briefing, Mr. Lowcock noted that it is now critical to step up advocacy and fundraising efforts to address critical existing humanitarian needs in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, as well as additional needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.