100-Day Relief Plan for Somalia Launched; Famine Threatens Millions with Starvation

UN Chronicle, December 1992 | Go to article overview

100-Day Relief Plan for Somalia Launched; Famine Threatens Millions with Starvation


With famine threatening an estimated 4.5 million people with imminent death from starvation, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Eliasson announced on 14 September that UN agencies would undertake a comprehensive 100-day play to accelerate relief efforts in Somalia, including immediate and massive infusions of food and seeds, as well as provision of shelter materials, clean water supplies, basic health services and other efforts to stabilize the society and the economy.

Somalia on 20 August had welcomed the emergency relief efforts under way, including the beginning of a two-month emergency airlift of food by the United States. The World Food Programme (WFP) had conducted an airlift, in cooperation with the Red Cross and other agencies, into isolated areas in the interior of Somalia and had for some time been flying in food to Mogadishu and the southern region of the country, where starvation and death were almost widespread.

The main challenge, reported the Secretary-General on 28 August (S/24480), was not delivering humanitarian relief supplies to ports and airports in Somalia, but protecting the convoys transporting supplies to warehouse and distribution centres.

Somalia has been embroiled in a clan-based civil war since President Mohammed Siad Barre, the country's leader for 21 years, was ousted in January 1991.

The United Nations Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM) was established by the Council on 24 April with the adoption of resolution 751 (1992), which authorized the immediate dispatch of 50 UN military observers to monitor the cease-fire between warring factions in Mogadishu.

The Security Council on 28 August had authorized the additional deployment of up to 3,000 security troops for UNOSOM, bringing its total strength to 4,219 personnel. The strengthened operation includes a 500-member force already deployed in the capital city of Mogadishu and a specialized logistical support staff of up to 719.

Four new security units, each with as many as 750 troops, were to be formed to secure the delivery and distribution of desperately needed food and other humanitarian relief supplies throughout war-torn, famine-stricken Somalia, a country on the Horn of Africa.

In unanimously adopting resolution 775 (1992), the Council also approved the establishment of UNOSOM headquarters in four operational zones, as part of the UN Secretary-General's plan to establish a presence in all parts of Somalia.

In each of the zones - the northwest (Berbera), the northeast (Bossasso), the central rangelands in Mogadishu (Mogadishu) and the south (Kismayo) - a consolidated UN operation would carry out humanitarian relief activities, cease-fire monitoring, security, demobilization and disarming, and national reconciliation efforts.

Banditry and looting

The cease-fire in Mogadishu - agreed to among the Somali faction on 3 March - had held "reasonably well", the Secretary-General reported (S/24343) on 22 July. However, ever, banditry and looting remained a major problem in both parts of the city and tension had increased noticeably in July, he stated, as a consequence of an incident involving a plane chartered by the WFP.

The aircraft, still bearing UN markings, was allegedly used for an illegal flight to Mogadishu to deliver newly-printed Somali currency and military equipment to one of the factions. An opposing warlord accused the UN of bias and delayed the deployment of UN observers, which leaders of the main factions had agreed to on 29 June.

Deployment resumed after the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Mohamed Sahnoun, secured assurances on 16 July that the currency would not be distributed. By 23 July, all 50 observers had arrived in Mogadishu and were deployed along the demarcation line separating the city into two zones.

Throughout Somalia, where the food situation was "critical", there were "incredible scenes of hunger, disease and dying children", the Secretary-General reported. …

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