U.N chief calls for massive international support to Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for “massive international support” for Somalia on Tuesday during his visit to the East African country, which is facing the worst drought in decades.

During a joint press briefing with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Guterres told reporters he was in Somalia “to ring the alarm” on the country’s need for massive international support.

He said the nation is dealing with humanitarian difficulties while also combating a serious terrorism threat.

The U.N chief received a red carpet welcome with an honor guard as Somali and U.N. officials greeted him at international airport in the capital, Mogadishu.

Most of the city was locked down for Guterres’ visit, with public transportation restricted.

Guterres thanked Mohamud for the warm welcome and said he was looking forward later Tuesday to Iftar – the breaking of the Ramadan fast.

Mohamud, in turn, thanked Guterres for demonstrating concern for Somalia.

“This visit assures us that the U.N is fully committed to supporting our plans for state-building and stabilizing the country,” the president said. “We are confident that the Somali people will be able to overcome the problems and challenges they are still facing through the completion of the liberation of the country and reconciliation.”

Food security experts say life remains “extremely critical” for more than 6 million hungry people in Somalia’s historic drought.

The country also faces insecurity as it battles thousands of fighters from al-Qaida’s East Africa affiliate, al-Shabab.

Guterres visited a camp for internally displaced people in Baidoa, in southwest Somalia. He lauded the determination of residents had shown to rebuild their lives.

“In the holy month of Ramadan, we need to have a generosity from the international community that is absolutely crucial to rescue these people that I have seen in this camp and that live in so dramatic circumstances,” Guterres said.

Habiba Isak Ibrahin, one of the people displaced by the severe drought, told The Associated Press she lost her crops and livestock and had to seek help at the camp.

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