Drought-stricken Somalis are climate change victims, says UAE

Deputy UN envoy Amiera Al Hefeiti says a clean energy transition could help bring the turbulent nation out of poverty

Somalis who fled drought-stricken areas sit at a makeshift camp on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu. AP
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Amiera Al Hefeiti, the UAE's deputy envoy to the UN, on Tuesday linked the drought ravaging parts of Somalia to climate change and said a clean energy transition could help the struggling Horn of Africa nation escape poverty and insecurity.

Addressing the UN Security Council in New York, Ms Al Hefeiti said renewable energy production could help Somalia, which is suffering through the worst drought the region has seen in decades.

Ms Al Hefeiti called on the UN and Amisom, the African Union's mission to the country, to “support Somalia in addressing the impact of climate change, all of which have led to increased food insecurity".

“It is possible here to work on expanding the use of renewable energy in peace processes, which my country sees as an important step in reducing the impact of climate change,” she added.

Finding alternatives to fossil fuels is cheaper and offers “benefits to local communities”, said Ms Al Hefeiti.

A protracted insurgency by the Al Qaeda-linked local militia Al Shabab, political turbulence and a spate of natural disasters have pushed Somalia into a humanitarian crisis, with about three million people unable to access basic services, she added.

“We stress here the importance of the full, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, while providing protection for humanitarian workers,” Ms Al Hefeiti said in New York.

Somalia’s government declared a state of humanitarian emergency in November due to the drought, with the worst affected parts including the south-central areas of Lower Jubba, Geddo and Lower Shabelle.

The UN reported than about 4.1 million people — a quarter of the country's population — need urgent food aid.

Nearly half of Somali children under the age of 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition this year, with hundreds of thousands needing life-saving treatment, the UN’s agency for children said on Tuesday, calling for urgent action.

“Malnutrition has reached crisis levels,” said Victor Chinyama, Unicef’s top spokesman in Somalia.

“The time to act is now … if you wait until things get worse, or until famine is declared, it may be too late.”

Rein Paulsen, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s director of emergencies, said this week the drought has killed about 1.5 million head of livestock and has drastically cut cereal production, pushing the region to the “brink of catastrophe”.

He said a “very small window” exists for taking speedy action and the key is whether the region’s long rains between March and May deliver much-needed water — and whether the agency receives the $130 million it needs until June.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991, when clan warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Millions of Somalis rely on aid, the UN says, and floods, droughts and locust plagues have made the crisis worse.

The UAE joined the UN’s top body for a two-year term beginning on January 1, meaning it can take part in meetings, vote on resolutions and help draft official statements.

Updated: February 15, 2022, 6:01 PM