London conference aims for stable Somalia under new leader

"It's a top priority because of the threat that an unstable, insecure Somalia poses both to the region and more widely, because of the affiliation of al-Shabab to al-Qaida and now a small ISIS presence in the country", he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

On the eve of the London Somalia Conference, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called today for further scale-up of the humanitarian response in Somalia and strengthening of the partnership between the worldwide community, the Federal Government of Somalia and humanitarian partners to avert starvation.

The UN Secretary General said growing food insecurity is affecting millions of Somalis.

The conference was hosted by British Prime Minister Theresa May. But the country recently elected a new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, in its first peaceful transfer of power in several decades.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Guterres called for an additional $900 million to aid the 6.2 million people whose crops have withered, livestock has died and waterholes have dried up.

"We want to see the integration of Somali regional forces and an increase in Somali capacity, as this will be crucial in allowing the resumption of offensives against the remaining al Shabaab strongholds in southern Somalia", May said. Aid agencies have expressed concern that the military moves could endanger the hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the drought. If the current situation continues, starvation could soon be a reality, creating a devastating cycle of hunger and disease as the health of people deteriorates and they become more susceptible to infection.

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World Health Organization said drought has also led to lack of clean water and the largest outbreak of cholera Somalia has seen in the last five years, with more than 36 000 cases and nearly 690 deaths so far in 2017 alone.

Humanitarian agencies operating in Somalia say they are concerned about reports of upcoming military offensives in the country at a time when the risk of starvation still persists.

Around 40 delegations from countries and worldwide institutions such as the World Bank, the global Monetary Fund and the League of Arab States are set to participate.

He added: "Restoring Somalia's relations with the World Bank, cancelling the country's debt, and providing immediate financial support from the World Bank's worldwide development association facility is critical".

FILE - In this photo taken February 25, 2017, displaced Somali girls who fled the drought in southern Somalia stand in a queue to receive food handouts at a feeding center in a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia.

  • Ismael Montgomery