The head of the World Food Program (WFP) on Thursday called on the international community to come to the aid of "traumatised and hungry" Somalis, as food insecurity "soars" again in the country hit by armed conflict and drought.
"I went to Somalia last month and saw with my own eyes how conflict and climate change are working together to destroy the lives and livelihoods of millions of Somalis", Cindy McCain told the UN Security Council, describing daily life as one of "violence, fear and hunger".
By the end of 2022, the country, which was suffering from a historic drought that began in 2020, had escaped widespread famine thanks to an intensified humanitarian response. "But today, we risk losing the precious gains made since those dark days last year," she warned.
The latest figures "show that food insecurity is soaring across Somalia," she added.
"More than 6.6 million people - a third of the population - are expected to face a food crisis or even worse levels of hunger. This includes 40,000 people struggling to survive in near starvation conditions".
"Even worse, 1.8 million children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2023," she added.
Since the beginning of 2022, armed conflicts "have caused more than a million internal displacements", in addition to 2.1 million displaced by climatic disasters over the past three years, she noted.
"By constantly being forced to move, people are poor, traumatised and hungry". And despite these conditions, the WFP is obliged to reduce its "vital" food aid because it lacks sufficient resources.
In December, the UN agency was able to provide food aid to a "record" 4.7 million people a month, but "at the end of April, we had to cut back to 3 million a month", insisted Cindy McCain.
"And without an immediate injection of cash, we will still have to cut our beneficiary lists in July to just 1.8 million a month," she warned.
The UN had launched a $2.6 billion appeal for Somalia for 2023, but the humanitarian aid plan is only about 30% funded.
It is only in recent years that Somalia has begun to find its feet again after three decades of chaos. Last May, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, who was President of Somalia between 2012 and 2017, was re-elected to lead the country after a long democratic battle.
Somalia has faced numerous attacks from Al-Shabab, and the government has recently embarked on what has been described as the most significant offensive against the extremist group for more than a decade.
Catriona Laing, the new UN Special Representative for Somalia, told the Council that the government's operations had militarily degraded Al-Shabab and dislodged its fighters from several areas, which was "a significant achievement".
However, Ms. Laing said Al-Shabab remained a significant threat, pointing to "a recent resurgence in the scale, pace and geographical spread" of its attacks, including the 9 June attack on the Pearl Beach hotel in Mogadishu, the capital, which killed nine people.
The African Union has a force in Somalia supporting government forces in their fight against Al-Shabab. Last year, the Security Council unanimously approved a new AU transition mission, known as ATMIS, to support the Somalis until their forces take full responsibility for the country's security at the end of 2024.
Ms. Laing said that the downsizing of ATMIS and the handover of responsibilities were underway, but her initial assessment "is that the complexity, constraints and pace of the transition process present risks, (and) it is a challenge".