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Horn of Africa: EU to fund disaster preparedness as crisis continues

An International Livestock Research Institute researcher discusses a livestock insurance scheme intended to mitigate the effects of drought with nomadic herders in northern Kenya's drylands. Photo: ILRI/Flickr.On Friday (March 16), the European Commission launched a major new disaster preparedness initiative for the Horn of Africa.

"SHARE" (Supporting the Horn of Africa's Resilience) was discussed at a high-level international conference in Copenhagen coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Danish aid agency, DANIDA. It was reported that the EU allocated €250 million ($329 million) to the scheme, which aims to strengthen resilience in the region to drought and other crises.

Almost 10 million people continue to be affected by the food crisis in the Horn of Africa according to Ireland’s Minister of State for Development, Joe Costello.

Speaking meeting with EU development ministers in Copenhagen, Mr Costello said the focus is on improving coordination between the various international bodies delivering aid to the region.

“Conditions are particularly difficult in Somalia where we have been calling on all parties to ensure that humanitarian agencies are given full, safe and unhindered access to those in need,” he said.

Islamist group Al Shabaab last week expelled another aid agency from territory it controls in Somalia, having already expelled the International Committee of the Red Cross and other agencies earlier this year. Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) earlier closed half of its facilities in the capital Mogadishu following the killing of two aid workers.

Measles is the latest threat facing malnourished children in the region according to the organisation.

“We set up a measles-treatment unit in the city of Kismayo last week, and it filled up immediately with critically ill children,” said Silvia Colona, project coordinator for South Somalia. “We think this is only the tip of the iceberg and that there are many more people with measles who can’t make it to our facilities.”

According to UNICEF, Somalia has the world’s highest mortality rate for children under five years of age.

A spokeswoman for MSF in Ireland, Sandra Smiley, said figures for the charity released this week show they have treated over 864,000 people in the south of Somalia alone, with almost one sixth of those needing medical treatment in the capital.

And while the volatile political situation poses challenges for aid agencies, it is also has repercussions for migrant remittances, the other main source of income for the war-torn country.

The World Bank estimates the Somali diaspora contributes up to four times the amount of aid funding, saying: “the major inflow of ‘aid’ has come from Somalis themselves.” However, laws relating to the possible funding of terrorist organisations restrict the transfer of funds to Somalia.

“Remittance income goes into the local economy,” says Dr Andy Storey of the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin.

“One of the problems poorer countries have been facing is the transfer of money is harder than it used to be in the wake of 9-11. This has started to have an impact, so for example people are not able to send such a big percentage of their wages as higher tariffs have been introduced by western countries.”

The last American institution to have continued transferring funds - the Sunrise Community Banks in Minneapolis, a city known as “Little Mogadishu” because of its large Somali population – recently ended the practice citing the complexity of navigating anti-terrorism laws.

In March of last year, then Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan signed into effect a prohibition against transferring funds, which could be used to finance terrorism or related activities, from Ireland to Somalia.

Ireland has provided €16 million to agencies responding to the crisis in the Horn of Africa.

See also:

Drought response lesson one: water, seeds and fodder are better than food

Media inattention towards Horn of Africa crisis 'inconceivable' and 'wrong'

Forecasters 'warned of Horn of Africa drought' a year beforehand

Insured Kenyan farmers await drought compensation

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