USAID Chief Visits Mogadishu, Meets With Somalia’s President

Samantha Power, administrator of the U.S. development agency USAID, announced new aid to tackle Somalia’s humanitarian crisis Sunday after meeting with Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mahmud.

Power was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, Larry Andre, for the talks with Somalia’s president.

After the meeting, Power announced that USAID will contribute $476 million to help Somalia fight the prolonged drought that has devastated many parts of the Horn of Africa country.

In a statement issued by USAID and sent to VOA via email after the meeting, Power said with the new announcement, the United States has provided nearly $707 million in humanitarian assistance for the people of Somalia in fiscal year 2022.

Power said Somalia is the epicenter of the food crisis gripping the Horn of Africa, in a video posted on Twitter Sunday.

“This isn’t like other droughts, this isn’t like other emergencies when four straight rainy seasons do not produce sufficient rain, we are looking at potentially an unprecedented catastrophe with millions of lives hanging in the balance,” she said.   

Power appealed to other countries and donors, including private citizens, to step up and support the people of Somalia.

However, at a news conference inside the U.S. embassy in the Somali capital Mogadishu, she said the U.S. has several concerns about delivery of the aid and is taking steps to alleviate them.   

“I want to stress this is both to avoid corruption and siphoning of resources to individuals who put their own welfare above of those of starving people,” she said.

The U.N. Office of humanitarian affairs (OCHA) Somalia office said Sunday nearly half of Somalia’s population — 7.7 million people — require humanitarian or protection assistance.  

The U.N. says one out of eight children in Somalia are dying before turning five and one in 100 women of child-bearing age die due to pregnancy-related complications.  

U.N. Food and Agriculture agency deputy emergency coordinator Ishaku Mshelia told VOA that food insecurity in Somalia has him worried.

“The severity of the food shortages is really troubling and might be the worst I have seen,” he said. “What is unique about it that with fourth failed rainy season so the usual local supplies that cool down demand is not available.”   

Somalia’s president has appointed a drought response envoy who on Friday said that the droughts in Somalia are caused by the combined multiple effects of climate change, deforestation, and conflict.

He said in the last decade, more than ten million trees have been cut down and that people are consistently degrading the environment and risk turning the country into a desert.