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FEATURE STORY July 14, 2017

A Visit to Refugee Camps in Somalia


World Bank Group Senior Vice President Mahmoud Mohieldin writes about the New Way of Working and collaboration with UN agencies and International Organizations to help bridge the humanitarian-development nexus.

Due to drought conditions and conflict, more than 20 million people in in Somalia, Northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen are at risk of starvation and famine, which is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

In a recent mission organized by the UN to famine-stricken Somalia, I saw firsthand the devastating impacts of the drought and the coordinated response to the famine crisis.

My mission to Somalia included senior officials from the UN and African Union, and was led by UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). I met senior officials in Mogadishu, as well as with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, and travelled to Doolow on the Somali side of the Ethiopian border in the so-called Mandera triangle, which is a hub for cross-border flows of displaced people.  

Due to an ongoing drought, 6.7 million people in Somalia are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 3.2 million of these are currently at grave risk. As a result, an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of five will be malnourished this year. The drought has forced 680,000 people to leave their homes in search of food and water since November 2016. Disease outbreaks are also of concern with cases of acute watery diarrhea and measles spreading at an alarming pace. Although humanitarian partners, in close collaboration with the Somali authorities, have been scaling up the provision of assistance, the risk of famine continues to persist in the country.

 In Somalia and many other places, the fragility landscape in the world has become more complex since violent conflicts spiked dramatically since 2010. Conflicts drive 80 percent of all humanitarian needs, while reducing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth by two percent per year, on average. In our response to crisis- and conflict-affected areas, the World Bank Group is not and cannot be in business-as-usual mode.

The World Bank Group is responding differently to this crisis. We are leveraging innovative operational linkages with UN agencies and non-state actors to deliver support in the most-affected areas.  Through innovative financing windows, such as the global crisis response platform, we are able to mobilize quickly relatively large amounts of resources to help bridge the humanitarian-development-peace divide to serve those most in need.

To support resilience building, our collaboration with humanitarian actors is intended to support immediate, medium-, and long-term impacts. As part of this humanitarian-plus approach, the WBG is investing $1.8 billion in emergency operations for countries affected by famine, in partnership with UN agencies and local actors on the ground.

A good example is the recently approved US$50 million Somalia Emergency Drought Response and Recovery Project (SEDRP), leveraging an unprecedented partnership agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Using its comparative advantage, ICRC will address the immediate needs of the drought-affected people in Somalia. The project will support resilient recovery through the provision of livelihood opportunities and the restoration of agricultural and pastoral production.

These multiple crises highlight the importance of prevention in a time of uncertainty, risks, and shocks. The joint partnership framework signed this past April by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary-General António Guterres “focuses on building resilience for the most vulnerable people by reducing poverty, promoting shared prosperity, enhancing food security, and sustaining peace in crisis-affected situations.” The framework, was signed “in response to global calls for our institutions to work more closely together on prevention and reducing needs, risks, and vulnerability as the world faces a spike in violent conflict.”

As an institution we will be working with our partners at the country, regional, and global level to respond to food insecurity felt by millions of people, to help prevent famine, and respond to other crises. This strong engagement and collaboration with our partners in the humanitarian-development nexus -- through projects, collaboration and financing, as well as long-term policy shifts -- will help us to establish solid partnerships as countries transition to a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous future.