Monday 24 July 2017

Boris Johnson in Somalia for surprise visit amid drought and famine warning

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire

Abdi Guled

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has arrived in Somalia on a surprise visit for talks with the country's new president, a Somali presidential aide confirmed.

Mr Johnson was meeting Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who was elected last month, at the airport.

Britain has appealed for aid to help deal with Somalia's drought, which has been declared a national disaster amid warnings of a full-blown famine.

The drought, which the United Nations said threatens about half of Somalia's population or roughly six million people, is part of a four-nation humanitarian crisis that the UN has called the largest since the world body was formed in 1945.

Britain announced on Wednesday that it would match "pound for pound" the first £5 million donated by the public to the Disasters Emergency Committee's new East Africa Crisis Appeal.

The committee is a collection of 13 British aid agencies.

After his own recent visit to Somalia, UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien said 2.9 million people in Somalia are at risk of famine and require immediate help "to save or sustain their lives".

He has warned that close to one million children under the age of five will be "acutely malnourished" this year.

The humanitarian chief said current indicators mirror "the tragic picture of 2011 when Somalia last suffered a famine".

But he said the UN's humanitarian partners have a larger footprint, better controls on resources and a stronger partnership with the new government.

"To be clear, we can avert a famine," Mr O'Brien has said. "But we need those huge funds now."

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