MEDIA NOTE: Famine must be top priority at London Somalia Conference – statement and experts available

10 May 2017

Experts at the Overseas Development Institute have said famine must be at the centre of discussions at the Somalia conference taking place in London on Thursday (May 11).

Sara Pantuliano, managing director at the ODI, said: ‘Somalia is at a critical tipping point and so it is vital heads of state and senior officials attending the conference keep the threat of famine at the centre of discussions.

‘The previous famine in 2011 demonstrated that concerted humanitarian action should occur after the third formal warning. We now have the third warning on its way and the response has not yet reached the threshold required. While the amount of money has increased, blockages remain that can only be addressed at a high political level.

‘The recent democratic presidential election shows tremendous progress has been made in Somalia recently, but it is important that this conference helps solidify international commitments to help Somalis towards a more secure and stable future.’

Dr Pantuliano will be available for interview ahead of the conference and during the summit.

Also available for interview will be Christina Bennett, head of the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI.

They will be able to talk about the three key lessons from the famine in 2011 which need to be addressed:

  • Somalia is at a critical tipping point: In 2011, it took 16 warnings from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) and FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) for the UN to declare a famine. In hindsight, everyone agreed that concerted humanitarian action should have taken place after warning three. We are currently at warning number two with a third one on its way, but the response has not yet reached the threshold required.
  • While we have seen an increase in the humanitarian response, the severity of the current drought continues to outstrip response efforts. The conference on Thursday must not be a wasted opportunity to address the administrative blockages and lengthy bureaucratic procedures hindering aid delivery.
  • Counter-terrorism measures are severely hampering relief efforts: cash transfers play a fundamental role in the stability and food security of Somalia. About $1.4 billion in remittances – 23% of the country’s GDP – is channelled to the country by the 1.5 million Somalis living overseas thanks to the hawala money-transfer system. During the 2011 famine, counter-terrorism measures severely hampered relief efforts in country and threatened remittance flows, and we risk seeing the same again this time.

ENDS

For more information or to arrange an interview contact James Rush on j.rush@odi.org.uk or +44 (0)7808 791265. Alternatively contact Brenda Yu on b.yu@odi.org.uk