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UN Chief Makes Surprise Visit to Somalia to Focus on Famine


U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a surprise visit to Somalia to push for "massive support" in light of the drought facing the country, March 7, 2017. (Photo: Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle)

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says Somalia needs "massive support" to prevent a repeat of the 2011 famine that killed 260,000 people.

Guterres made a surprise visit Tuesday morning to the Horn of Africa country, meeting with newly-elected president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, and U.N. and African Union officials.

"We have 6.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia, that is almost half of the Somali population," said Guterres at a joint news conference in Mogadishu with Farmajo.

Somalia's newly-elected president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, speaks about the drought during a joint news conference in Mogadishu with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, March 7, 2017. (Photo: Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle)

Somalia's newly-elected president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, speaks about the drought during a joint news conference in Mogadishu with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, March 7, 2017. (Photo: Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle)

Guterres noted the recent U.N. appeal for $825 million to help Somalia.

"Without that support, we'll have a tragedy that is absolutely unacceptable and that the Somali people do not deserve," he said.

Later in the day, Guterres flew to Baidoa, one of the most drought-stricken areas in the country, and visited a hospital where malnourished people are being treated.

Baidoa is the capital of Bay region, one of the worst-hit areas in the famines of 1992 and 2011. Baidoa was called the "city of death" in the 1990s because of the high number of malnourished and starving people.

Farmajo welcomed the visit by Guterres.

"As you know, livestock have been dying, the people have started dying," Farmajo said. "He's here to see the drought, and to give his support in his capacity and tell the international community about the magnitude of the problem."

Farmajo said he and Guterres also discussed Somalia's security issues and delivery of aid to the affected areas.

Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle from VOA's Somali Service contributed to this report.

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