Getting Somalia right has huge regional and global implications and attracted $2.4 billion in support at a recent development partners meeting in Brussels.
Supporting fragile and conflict-affected countries to get back on a stable, hopeful development path is a key priority for me as Vice President for the World Bank’s Africa region. It is on my mind especially at the moment after being in Brussels several days ago to participate in the EU-hosted New Deal Conference on Somalia, and then visiting Bamako to pledge our support to Mali’s newly formed Government. As stated by the international community and many observers, the recent election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will open a new era of peace and reconstruction for Mali and we will be an active partner in this immense task.
The Brussels conference marks the anniversary of last year’s political transition and culminated in the endorsement of a “Compact” against which the international community pledged $2.4 billion through 2016. The conference, hosted by the EU and the Government of Somalia led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, not only helped consolidate international political support for Somalia but also generated considerable momentum for the country’s development plans and a path to international debt relief.
Ninety minutes after leaving Nairobi, UN flight 13W banks sharply over the Somali coastline in a series of steep turns that line it up for final approach into Mogadishu airport. The sharp turns are standard security measures to minimize exposure to fire from would-be attackers on the ground. Out of the starboard window, a number of small boats cut a slow, languid path through the ocean, while closer to the airport, large merchant ships sit anchored just off the end of the runway waiting to be unloaded in the nearby port which is the city’s economic lifeline. As we land, the tarmac shimmers in the 100 degree heat that now envelopes the city.
We’ve come to Mogadishu to present the findings of a new Bank study called The Pirates of Somalia: Ending the Threat: Rebuilding a Nation to senior ministers from the Somali government. The report concludes that Somalia cannot ‘buy’ its way out of piracy, and neither can the international community rely solely on its navies and law enforcement agencies to defeat the pirates, whether at sea or on land. The solution to Somali piracy is first and foremost political.
In a fresh look at ending piracy off the Horn of Africa, the Bank suggests that a sustained solution to ending piracy will only come with the recreation of a viable Somali state that can deliver essential health, education, nutrition, and other services throughout the entire country, especially in those areas where piracy flourishes.
In the Nairobi slum of Kawangware, people like Said, 33, are struggling to help relatives fleeing the drought in Somalia. The full-time gardener and father of four is providing refuge to his mother, Zeinab Lebon, 65, and six other relatives. All share his family’s two bedrooms of 144 square feet each, and he now supports 12 people on one salary.
“We do not have water or toilet; I have to pay every day 1 Kenya schilling for every person for the toilet, 20 schillings for 20 liters of water,” says Said. Yet, he now also plans to bring his mother-in-law, who is 70, from Daadab in northeastern Kenya. She lost her husband to a stray bullet as they took off for Daadab on foot from Mandera, on the Somali border.
I am standing in a camp near Dollo Ado, in southern Ethiopia near the border with Somalia. The camp is an open site on hard rocky land: the only vegetation is grey, thorny scrub. An endless wind is swirling around me, picking up the light soil under foot and coating everyone and everything with a thin film of orange. Dust devils spin lazily in the relentless hot sun, making it hard to see the plastic sheeting that is the only covering for the ‘huts’ in which 10,000 people are living. Welcome to Haloweyn, the newest refugee camp for the drought-triggered exodus from Somalia. Today is Eid-ul-Fitr, but nobody is celebrating here.
We have stopped to talk to people and understand the challenges they face, but it is hard work. Many of them have scarves wrapped around their faces to protect themselves from the wind, very few of us speak any Somali, and when we do communicate they look uncertain and dazed, as well they may. This camp is only three weeks old—less than a month ago all these people were wandering through this extraordinarily arid landscape, trying to pick their way past the lines of conflict, almost all malnourished and often sick too. That those we meet seemed to have recovered their physical health already is fairly miraculous. Their reluctance to relive their experiences seems wholly understandable.
Earlier this month, I participated in a four-day mission to Mandera, a county in northeastern Kenya, some 640 km from Nairobi on the Somali border. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Agency (ECHO) arranged the mission to assess progress of various community-managed drought risk reduction initiatives.
We visited several projects being implemented across Mandera’s central, northern and eastern districts, an area which is home to more than a million people, according to the last census in 2009. The area is classified as arid and receives on average 250 mm of rainfall in a good year. But for the last several months, not a single drop of rain has fallen and all water reserves have been depleted. Famine could be imminent in Mandera and its neighboring counties if policies are not put in place to prevent it.
Being my first visit to Mandera the mission was eye-opening but also disquieting, coming as it did in the midst of what is now accepted as “the most severe drought in the Horn of Africa in the last 60 years”.
I recently visited Dadaab, Kenya’s third-largest and fastest-growing city, having grown from 250,000 residents a few years ago to more than 400,000 today.
Dadaab is not an ordinary Kenyan city. Most of its residents are not Kenyans, but Somalis, living in a collection of refugee camps crowding the small Kenyan town that existed 20 years ago.
The camps’ earliest residents sought refuge from the fighting that has made Somalia a failed state. The 1,000+ refugees that are now arriving every day are seeking refuge from climate change, the region’s worst drought in 60 years, and the famine that it brings.
I met a group of refugees at a reception center at Dagahaley camp. They had left everything in Somalia and walked hundreds of kilometers across a dry and unforgiving landscape in a desperate gamble to find food, water and refuge in Kenya. The very young and the very old were in terrible condition. Some had already been in Dadaab for a week, living off the kindness of others, too tired to sort out their status. Now they waited patiently to be registered and to receive their initial food ration.
Looking around the camp, I could see their likely future. Refugees who had arrived earlier were cooking, sitting, or talking around water points, or in the low white UNHCR tents that were now “home”. Still earlier arrivals, also squatting outside the formal camps, were building makeshift shelters, digging pit latrines, collecting firewood, or planting dry branches to fence their meager possessions. The earliest arrivals were the most settled—living in tin-roofed houses and fenced compounds that were formally allotted, not far from the main street of kiosks, shops, and community and administration buildings that gave each camp the look of a small town.