24 February 2006

New Special Envoy Calls for Increased Support to Horn of Africa

NEW YORK/NAIROBI, 23 February (OCHA) -- The Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Kjell Magne Bondevik, today visited the drought-stricken district of Kajaido in Kenya.  "I have seen with my own eyes the terrible effect this drought is having on pastoralists, farmers and their families", Bondevik said.  "Within these communities, children are often the most vulnerable. Moreover, the loss of livestock threatens the ability of families to cope and to survive", he added.

On 22 February, Mr. Bondevik received comprehensive briefings from the representatives of the Governments of Kenya and Somalia, from senior United Nations officials from countries of the region -- Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia -- and from the broader humanitarian and international donor community.  In these five countries, more than 11 million are affected by the current drought.

"It is clear that efforts are under way by the concerned Governments and the international community to bring much needed assistance to the people in need", Bondevik said at a press briefing today.  "We continue to support and encourage these efforts by both national and international actors.  It is also very clear that much more needs to be done now and in the future", he added.

He underscored the need to address the two key challenges of alleviating current suffering and significantly reducing vulnerability to recurrent drought in order to break the cycle of food insecurity.  "We must look at the root causes of food insecurity and the devastation it brings to communities and link our immediate actions with longer-term development programmes", the Special Envoy noted.

He also noted a need for enhanced coordination between national Governments, local authorities, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and the donor community and the need for a regional approach.  He also said that the international community must obtain increased understanding and awareness of the current situation and its longer-term implications and underlying causes to better tailor a response.  He added that a better integrated and holistic response is required, one that involves water, health, food and all other critical sectors, which are all inextricably linked.  He urged the international community to turn their attention to the crisis and especially emphasized the urgent need for funding and support of the United Nations Appeal and the efforts of the entire humanitarian community.

The Special Humanitarian Envoy leaves Nairobi today after his first field visit to the drought-affected region.  His appointment as Special Envoy reflects the deep concern of the United Nations and the entire humanitarian community regarding the devastating impact the ongoing drought in both Kenya and the Horn of Africa is having on the people and their livelihoods.

The Special Humanitarian Envoy's term is for an initial period of one year, beginning in February 2006.  He is supported by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) during this period and reports to the Secretary-General and the Emergency Relief Coordinator.  As Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mr. Bondevik succeeds Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland.  Mr. Bondevik served as Prime Minister of Norway from 1997 to 2000 and from 2001 to 2005.  After leaving office, he founded the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights, where he serves as President.

For further information, please call:  Stephanie Bunker, OCHA- New York, tel.:  +1 917 367 5126, mobile:  +1 917 892 1679; Kristen Knutson, OCHA- New York, tel.:  +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, tel.:  +41 22 917 2653, mobile:  +41 79 473 4570.

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