Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, has concluded her African tour with conversations in Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, and Somalia.
The visits by Greenfield and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen who was on a three-nation, 10-day Africa tour were part of President Biden’s plans to strengthen ties with the continent and counter rising China and increasingly influential Russia.
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. himself announced last month during the second U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington D.C. that he will visit sub-Saharan Africa in 2023, the first trip by a sitting U.S. president since then President Barack Obama visited a decade ago.
On Sunday, Thomas-Greenfield met with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud during her visit to Mogadishu, Somalia, and expressed support for President Hassan Sheikh’s efforts to foster reconciliation and advance the political, economic, and security reforms necessary for Somalia’s lasting stability.
“Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to supporting Somali-led counterterrorism efforts and discussed with President Hassan Sheikh the ongoing humanitarian emergency and the need to diversify international donor support to prevent famine and save lives,” U.S. Mission to the United Nations Spokesperson Nate Evans said in a statement.
On Saturday, she met with Kenyan President William Ruto, and expressed appreciation for Kenya’s leadership on the UN Security Council during their two-year tenure and applauded Kenya’s role in ongoing efforts to advance peace and security in the region, including in Ethiopia, Somalia, and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
U.S. Mission to the United Nations Spokesperson Nate Evans added that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and President Ruto also discussed ways to partner in addressing food insecurity and continuing efforts to counter terrorism in the Horn of Africa.
In Nairobi, Greenfield also met with officials from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Program, the Food and Agricultural Organization, and UNICEF to discuss humanitarian assistance to refugees in Kenya – home to one of the largest refugee settlements in the world. The Ambassador received briefings on how the drought in East Africa, induced by climate change, is reducing harvests at a time when the region is facing historic levels of food insecurity.
“Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield also visited a state-of-the-art, manufacturing and assembly hub for electric vehicles. The United States supports Kenya’s efforts to accelerate a just energy transition from consuming fossil fuels to providing clean energy and quality jobs on the continent. The United States remains committed to tackling the climate crisis, both at home and in partnership with the international community,” added Evans.
On Thursday, January 26, Thomas-Greenfield met with Mozambican Foreign Minister Verónica Macamo. She said that Mozambique continues to be an invaluable regional leader and an ally of the United States.
“Its leadership is helping advance economic prosperity, health security, and stability throughout the region. But its leadership also extends across the world and to multilateral institutions like the United Nations. As I told the foreign minister, the United States looks forward to working closely with Mozambique during its first historic term on the UN Security Council,” she said in remarks.
Beginning her visit in Ghana on Wednesday, January 25, Thomas-Greenfield met with Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Botchwey in Accra, Ghana. “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield thanked the Foreign Minister for Ghana’s continued strong partnership on the UN Security Council and they discussed their perspectives on Security Council reform,” U.S. Mission to the United Nations Spokesperson Nate Evans said in a readout.
Biden’s plans for Africa
During his remarks at the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington DC last December, President Biden announced new investments focused on boosting infrastructure and trade and countering the growing influence of China and Russia.
He said that the U.S. will support innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa, and that the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is investing $370 million in the continent to increase access to clean energy and supply farmers with fertilizers and help companies that bring water to communities.
In addition, Biden announced a new initiative to allow Africa participate in the digital economy that would include collaborations between Viasat and Microsoft to bring internet access to at least five million people in Africa.
He added, “I proposed this initiative together with the rest of the G7 to help fill the need for quality, high-standard infrastructure in Africa and in low-income and middle-income countries around the world. And at the G7 meeting earlier this year, we announced our intention to collectively mobilize $600 billion in the next five years.
“Today’s announcements joint — join a portfolio of Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment projects already underway in Africa, including mobilizing $8 billion in public and private finance to help South Africa replace coal-fired power plants with renewable energy sources and develop cutting-edge energy solutions like clean hydrogen; a deal worth $2 billion to build solar energy projects in Angola; $600 million in high-speed telecommunications cable that will connect Southeast Asia to Europe via Egypt and the Horn of Africa and help bring high-speed Internet connectivity to countries all along the way,” added Biden.
In Washington on Tuesday, responding to concerns and perceptions that Africa is again being used as a battlefield for a proxy war between East and West, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the U.S. partnership in Africa is not about other nations.
She said, “As demonstrated by our commitments at the U.S.- Africa Leaders’ Summit, the United States sees African countries as genuine partners and wants to build relationship based on mutual respect. That’s what you saw at the summit. And that’s what the President has been consistent on, and that’s what we want to see.
“Our focus is on Africa and our efforts to strengthen these partnerships across a wide range of sectors spanning from businesses to health to peace and security. Building on those efforts, we’ve had Secretary Blinken and Secretary Yellen travel to the region very recently.
“And as you noted, we have Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s upcoming travel to Ghana, Mozambique, and Kenya. And that’s going to be from January 25th to the 29th.
“The Ambassador’s — this is going to be the Ambassador’s third trip to the Sub-Saharan Africa. And since she took up her position as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, she’s gone three times under this current tenure that she’s currently doing.
“And you will continue to see us following through the President’s commitment and to step — and to step up our engagement across Africa this year and beyond.
“And, look, this is a commitment. We saw it when we put the summit together with 49, 50 heads of states who were here, right here in D.C. And that was over three days.
“And the President participated in the summits, his team participated in the summit, and we talked about issues that really mattered to the continent and issues that really mattered to us as well.”
READ ALSO – Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a Press Conference with Deputy Director Nicole Irungu of Church World Service’s Resettlement Support Center Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday, January, 28, 2023
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me thank all of you for joining us today. I’ve had an extraordinarily productive and busy day here in Nairobi.
I got up early this morning for a solemn ceremony at the old U.S. Mission, where we lost more than 200 Kenyans and Americans. And it really was solemn because for me, every single one of the people inside the U.S. Mission who were victims, were friends. I had served in Kenya from ’93 to ’96, and the bombing happened in 1998.
I also had the opportunity to meet with President Ruto, where we had a broad discussion on the regional challenges that Kenya is working on here in the region. And these are the similar challenges that I am dealing with in the Security Council. And I also wanted to thank him for Kenya’s very strong and supportive role during their two-year tenure at the Security Council.
I then had the opportunity to visit a plant that produces electric motorcycles, and to see what we’re doing on the – really, how we’re dealing – how companies are helping to address environmental issues. And that was really an extraordinary example of what can be done if people are committed to it.
Back in the 1990s – in fact, 1989 – I served as the Department of State’s U.S. resettlement officer for Africa. At that time, the United States had a 2,000-person cap on refugees coming from Africa. Most years we actually wouldn’t even meet the 2,000 number and I remember very sadly that my first year when I committed that I was going to reach the 2,000 number, I got to 1,982. And I’ve never forgotten that those 18 people that I could have helped didn’t get out, and I didn’t reach those numbers.
We felt we could and that we should be able to take more refugees, and we wanted to ramp up the program. So I was then assigned to be the refugee coordinator here in Kenya, and I served here from 1993 to 1996. But before coming, I worked on a program that would help us ramp up the refugee numbers. But we had a problem: we simply did not have the allocated resources to process more people.
So we decided to reach out to our civil society colleagues for support. And Church World Service here with me today stepped up – and became what we called then our JVA. And I don’t know, are we – do we call you JVAs now?
DEPUTY DIRECTOR NICOLE IRUNGU: RSC [Resettlement Support Center Africa].
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: See, I’ve been out of it a long time. JVAs were Joint Voluntary Agencies.
So when I came to Kenya as the regional refugee coordinator, I was able to see up close and personally what those efforts had done. Church World Service established an office here for the first couple of years. You funded out of your own money half of the operation, and we funded the other half. But we were able to ramp up those numbers and eventually while I was here, we were able to push our numbers to almost 25,000.
But I saw how much it meant for these refugees to be able to come to the United States and how it really transformed their lives. I saw how Church World Service, together with our partners from the International Organization for Migration, from UNHCR, made all the difference in the world. They helped to vet refugees for the resettlement program. They ensured that the applicants had their medicals and all of their documents in order. They made sure that they were prepared for their interviews with what was then INS, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which is now USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services].
And I want to take this opportunity now, some 30 years later almost, to thank Church World Service for your help. We were able to continually expand the cap and bring more African refugees to the United States. And by 1999, the allocation for Africa was 12,000. By 2001, it was 20,000. And in 2003*, this fiscal year, it will be 40,000 refugees.
And to be honest, that’s a drop in the bucket when we consider how many people can benefit from this program. But it is an extraordinary effort and it shows the commitment that the United States has to refugees.
Civil society – and Church World Service specifically – made all the difference. They changed the lives of thousands upon thousands of families fleeing violence, disease, poverty, and hunger. And they do this still today.
Just a few moments ago, I met with refugees who Church World Service helped and had the opportunity to talk to them about their future journeys to the United States. And I shared with them my experience and really congratulated them for their efforts. There was a seven-year-old among those who are being processed, with her parents, and I told her that she was going to make a difference; she was going to be our next Ilhan Omar, who also immigrated from the United – from Kenya as a refugee.
They are all fleeing persecution and violence. And I could hear and see on their faces the relief that they were finally headed to the United States to forge a new life and to find a new home.
Over the course of my career, I’ve often been asked by good-hearted Americans how they can help. What can private citizens do to support refugees? And today we have the answer, and that is the Welcome Corps.
The Welcome Corps is a new Department of State program to empower everyday Americans to sponsor and welcome refugees arriving through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. This new, innovative program allows private citizens to support the resettlement of refugees as they begin to build their new lives in the United States. Thirty years ago, we innovated by bringing civil society into the fold. And today, we’re expanding the circle by bringing private citizens in.
This is a proud moment for me as it is for all of us. And we are still leaning on civil society.
We’ve put together a consortium of non-profit organizations with expertise in welcoming, resettling, and integrating refugees into the United States to offer expert guidance and support to Americans joining the Welcome Corps.
Of course, it should come to no surprise that Church World Service is still one of those organizations. And I encourage any and every American who is interested in it to check out welcomecorps.org.
With that, I’ll hand it over to Nicole from Church World Service to talk a little more about this exciting development. And when she’s done, we’ll take a few questions from you. So over to you, Nicole.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR IRUNGU: Thank you, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. We are thrilled to have you with us here in Nairobi, and we are grateful for the decades of service and support you have given to this program and to African refugees in need of protection. I am Nicole Irungu, and I have worked for Church World Service for the last 14 years. I am the deputy director at the Resettlement Support Center Africa, which used to be called the Joint Voluntary Agency.
Since 1990, CWS along with its partners IOM and UNHCR have resettled almost 325,000 refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa to the United States. For more than 75 years, CWS has welcomed refugee families from around the world to cities and towns across the United States and provided friendship and support as they rebuild their lives.
CWS and the whole team at RSC Africa are excited to support the Welcome Corps, and we are thrilled for the thousands of refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and other African nations who will now have the opportunity to benefit from this new initiative.
Community-driven resettlement is the backbone upon which the modern U.S. refugee admissions program was built. And now, as the United States Government looks to expand refugee resettlement, it is only fitting that we are returning to those roots by inviting regular Americans to play a critical role in welcoming refugees to their new home.
CWS is supporting the Welcome Corps launch both domestically and overseas. At RSC Africa, we will help match the first refugees to the Welcome Corps sponsor groups. Working with refugees who are part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is a joy and a privilege. They are some of the most inspiring and resilient individuals you will ever meet.
As Americans take on the role of welcomers stateside, our team at RSC Africa will do what we do best: we will walk alongside each of these refugees to prepare them for the journey and opportunity of a lifetime. We are ready and excited for what the future holds.
MODERATOR: So we’re going to take a few questions, and we’ll start with Noe (ph) from African Intelligence.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Ambassador, for your (inaudible). Last year, Ambassador, (inaudible). Sorry. Last year, the USA committed more than $250 million to help Kenya face – Kenya and its neighbors to face this drought which also has (inaudible) impacts on the migrations. Where are we now, six or seven months later? How is – how has it been in terms of impact and recovery from this? Thank you very much.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah. The figure now for Kenya alone is about $376 million, and as I mentioned – maybe I didn’t mention it here – the figure for the region, for the Horn, is about $2.4 billion. So we have successfully helped this region avoid famine, but people are still desperate and the needs are still there, and we’re encouraging other countries to contribute to these needs. This is not something the United States can do alone, and it requires a global effort, and part of my reason for this trip is to put eyes on but to do a call for action by other countries to contribute to this effort.
MODERATOR: Great. Next we’ll go to Daniel with The Daily African. Oh, Daily Nation. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Okay. So thank you for coming. I wanted to know what you think of the treatment of —
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t hear you.
QUESTION: Now, I wanted to know what you think of the treatment of refugees in Kenya. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: What I think of the treatment?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah. So, as I said, I have been in and out of Kenya working on refugees issues since 1989. And I have seen the situation evolve. I discussed with President Ruto today, who noted that many of these refugees have been in Kenya for 30 years. They don’t have a home to go back to. In a sense, they’re Kenyans. So we are supporting efforts to create settlements for refugees that will allow refugees to work and find livelihoods here in Kenya and to contribute to Kenya’s economy and to improve the lives that they have here in Kenya.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible.) Next we’ll go to Julia with Reuters.
QUESTION: I’m not sending. I need to write. Julia from Reuters. I’m the Ethiopia correspondent.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hi.
QUESTION: In the past two and a half years, you’ve been fairly vocal about the conflict. So I was wondering, what’s your assessment of the current situation? We know there’s been a peace deal, but is your understanding that foreign troops and non-Ethiopian troops are still in the Tigray region? And is your assessment with respect to the humanitarian response and atrocities a positive one? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: So we welcome the cessation of hostilities. So many lives were lost and destroyed in this useless war. And we have been consistent in our call for foreign troops – to name Eritrea – to leave Ethiopia. We understand that they have moved back to the border and that they’ve been asked to leave Ethiopia, and I think that’s important if this ceasefire is to hold and humanitarian assistance is allowed to continue to flow.
MODERATOR: That’s all we have time for today, but thank you all for coming.
READ ALSO – Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a Press Conference in Maputo, Mozambique
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As I said to the press and the Minister of Foreign Affairs yesterday, we look forward with great anticipation to working with Mozambique as it begins its historic first term on the UN Security Council.
During my very extensive engagement with the foreign minister yesterday, we used the opportunity to reaffirm our strong bilateral relations. We shared priorities related to regional security, climate change, women, peace, and security issues, as well as other issues of importance to both of our countries. We stressed that together, we can strengthen UN initiatives that are already having a meaningful impact on the region.
And over the past two days, I’ve had the opportunity to also meet with UN officials who are helping build a safer, more peaceful region. They, along with other organizations, are agents of good and are agents of change. But we also know that change comes from our citizens, from civil society, from entrepreneurs, and activists and students like you. And as you know, I had an opportunity to sit here with the students just before this meeting, and I can tell you we had an extraordinarily rich discussion about multilateralism.
I also spent a great deal of my visit here with grassroot leaders. Yesterday, I volunteered alongside an environmental group at the Three Trees Beach. Three Trees Beach is the last remaining coastal mangrove forest in urban Maputo. These mangroves help protect tropical – protect against tropical storms, rising sea levels, and erosion, and they’re highly effective carbon sinks. And we must restore and protect these natural defenses.
This morning, I met with women who participated in the YALI exchange program. This is the U.S. initiative that helps young Africans develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills. One of these women, Marta Uetela, founded BioMec Mozambique. And this company produces high-performance prosthesis from recycled ocean plastics. Talk about someone who’s driving change through entrepreneurship. I still can’t imagine how she came up with the idea of producing prosthesis with plastics from the sea. I mean, it is amazing. And it’s making a difference in people’s lives. I was truly impressed by her.
And as you heard, I sat down today with students from this university, right here in this room, and there are some of them still sitting here with us now. And I was so impressed by their knowledge, their passion, and their commitment to service. And as I told the president, I have no doubt that many of them will go on to serve Mozambique in posts abroad, around the world, but also serve Mozambique in the United Nations.
These two days here in Mozambique reinforced what I have always known: the U.S.-Mozambique partnership will shape not only the future of the region, but the future of the world. And that will be a future that will be one of greater peace, greater security, and greater prosperity for all.
And with that, I look forward to your questions.
MODERATOR: Anyone in the press have some questions?
MODERATOR: And if you could say your name and outlet, that would be great.
QUESTION: (In Portuguese), the Portuguese News Agency. (In Portuguese.)
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for both questions. I had extensive discussions on the situation in Cabo Delgado during my two days here. We discussed with the government their strategy.
Secondly, on the question of Mozambique’s positions in the Security Council. Mozambique’s positions are Mozambique’s positions. Our view is that when you look at the situation in Ukraine, you cannot be neutral when there is a country that is attacking another country, and particularly if that country is a member of the Security Council. And it is important that the world sees this for what it is. It’s an attack on the UN Charter. It’s an attack on the sovereignty of an independent country. It’s an attack on a neighbor. And we call upon the world to help to defend Ukraine defend itself.
MODERATOR: We have here two more.
QUESTION: (In Portuguese.)
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, to be honest with you, we will work closely with Mozambique, but we work closely with every single member of the Security Council. Because if the Security Council does not work together, they do not work. And so the new elected members of the Security Council are an important player for us, and Mozambique as a new elected member of the Security Council, it’s important for us to engage them, to understand what their priorities are, to share with them our priorities. As I indicated, we don’t ask countries to take sides. We don’t ask countries to choose between their friends.
Mozambique is an independent country and can choose the positions that it takes in the Council, but there are areas in the Council where we know we can work together. We are very much coming together on issues of climate change. I want to know what Mozambique’s positions are and work with them to help them build their priorities. I want to work with Mozambique on addressing issues of peace and security in this region. And we work very closely with the entire A3 – all three members of the African members of the Security Council – to address those issues as well.
Sorry, I forgot your other question. (Laughter.)
INTERPRETER: (In Portuguese.)
QUESTION: And do you —
MODERATOR: Sorry, we’ll go here, and then we’ll end here.
QUESTION: (In Portuguese.)
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: On our position on Africans purchasing commodities from Russia, we don’t have any sanctions at all on any Russian agricultural products. Records show that Russia has exported at least as much if not more wheat – this year after the war – than they were exporting before the war.
But we know that the war has had an impact on food security on this continent. I met with the FAO this morning and asked that specific question, if they had seen any direct impact from the war. And I was told that they have seen major shortages and extraordinary price increases in the price of fertilizer. And it is for that reason that we support the Secretary-General’s Black Sea Initiative that will open up more exports from Ukraine as well as Russia through the Black Sea. But, despite the initiative, Russia has been blocking and continues to block easy access to Black Sea – wheat flowing through the Black Sea. And that’s having an impact on this continent.
On – I think you asked me another question. Oh, on terrorism, yes, and that is flowing to the south. We are seeing terrorism, terrorists move and expand. And that’s the reason we have to have a global effort to address issues of terrorism. When I was in Ghana, what I heard from the Ghanaians is that terrorism was flowing out of the Sahel, pushing south toward Ghana and to the coastal countries. We see that happening here as well. So we have to redouble our efforts to push back on terrorist actions and the activities that are terrorizing ordinary citizens such as the citizens of Cabo Delgado. And we’re working closely with the government to address those issues.
MODERATOR: Okay. Who wants one last question? Yes.
QUESTION: Ambassador. (In Portuguese.)
MODERATOR: And could you say your name and outlet?
QUESTION: (In Portuguese.)
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. Thank you very much. To address terrorism, you have to have a multifaceted approach. It’s not just the security side, but it is also dealing with the issues that ordinary people are faced with every single day. We’re providing training and equipment for the police. But we’re also supporting the needs, the humanitarian needs, of people who have been impacted by the terrorists.
The U.S. is the largest donor to humanitarian programs in Mozambique, and much of that right now is focused on Cabo Delgado.
MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone. Thank you.
READ ALSO – Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a Media Availability with Mozambican Foreign Minister Verónica Macamo
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much, and good afternoon, everyone. Thank you all for being here. I just had a very good sit-down with Foreign Minister Macamo. We had an extraordinarily productive and wide-ranging discussion. And we reaffirmed our shared commitment to take on today’s most pressing challenges, including food insecurity, the climate crisis, and protracted conflicts.
On all of these issues and many more, Mozambique continues to be an invaluable regional leader. Its leadership is helping advance economic prosperity, health security, and stability throughout the region. But its leadership also extends across the world and to multilateral institutions like the United Nations. As I told the foreign minister, the United States looks forward to working closely with Mozambique during its first historic term on the UN Security Council.
This has been a great first day for me in Maputo. I started with a visit to the U.S. embassy to thank the team for all they do to advance the enduring relationship between the U.S. and Mozambique. And the best part of my day so far was I joined an environmental group working to protect coastal mangrove forests. This effort is a perfect example of how we can mitigate the worst consequences of climate change. And I was truly proud to play my small part to help preserve this natural treasure.
And finally, just before coming here I met with Neha Sanghrajka. She serves as the senior advisor to the UN Peace Secretariat and plays a critical role in building peace and security in this country. I’m looking forward to another productive day tomorrow, and having more meetings with government officials, UN officials, and civil society.
Thank you very much, and I look forward to engaging with you over the course of my visit.
Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Ending Famine Forever and a Call to Action for the International Community During a Press Conference in Mogadishu, Somalia
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s like a full day of back-to-back meetings. Some of you were in some of those meetings today. We started this morning with His Excellency President Hassan Sheikh. We met with ATMIS. We met with the UN. We met with NGOs. And I want to thank all of them for taking the time to give me the extraordinary briefings that they provided.
Almost 30 years ago, I served in Kenya as the regional refugee coordinator for the Horn of Africa. At that time, a brutal war had consumed Somalia. Tens of thousands of Somali refugees flooded into Kenya, where I was stationed. I spent countless days in the Dadaab refugee camp, where many of the refugees were placed. And by the time I left Kenya, there were about 120,000 refugees in those camps. These were refugees who were fleeing violence and were desperate for safety. Many of them women who had been victims of rape. The toll of this war was obvious, and it was lasting.
Today, the Dadaab camps have over 400,000 refugees – and many families are there on their third generation – having spent more than 30 years in Kenya. Their lives had been upended by conflict, and people were traumatized and exhausted. It really was heartbreaking at the time that I was there in the 1990s, and I know it’s still heartbreaking today.
On top of all of that, so many of the families I met with, and especially children, were experiencing what we call severe acute malnutrition. And let me tell you what that looks like. I saw little children grow gaunt. Their hair thinned and yellowed, and many of them lifelessly lying on the floor. Their arms would whittle down to bones. Literally just bones. Parents were desperate for help. But too often, there was no help and there was nothing that they could do. I saw a little girl die like that. Right in front of me. And this is what starving to death and wasting looks like.
Nearly 30 years later, that image is still seared in my mind. And when you see something like that, you never, never forget it. So, when we talk about acute malnutrition, that’s not just a technical term for me. And when I hear the word ‘famine’ – I see what happened to that little girl happening across a whole swath of a country.
And that’s why, when I started this job in New York two years ago, I made conflict and hunger our first signature event in the Security Council. And when Russia’s further invasion into Ukraine exacerbated the global hunger crisis and turned a dark situation into a dire crisis, we called a ministerial in New York and launched a “Roadmap for Global Food Security”. It was a call to step up. It was a call to action. That roadmap now has the support of more than 100 countries. This moment demands this kind of international solidarity. Because we’re facing the worst global hunger crisis any of us have ever seen.
Climate change has triggered an unprecedented drought and turned fields fallow – as we have seen right here in Somalia. Conflicts, like the one caused by al-Shabaab, or the one in Ukraine caused by Russia, have driven farmers from their homes. And COVID sparked a supply chain crisis that has made these all the more worse.
As complicated as it all sounds, the conclusions I heard today from President Hassan Sheikh, UN humanitarian groups, and the NGOs I met with, are not. The humanitarian situation in Somalia is as dire as any in the world right now. In fact, this combination of COVID, conflict, and climate – and the climate crisis – the three C’s – brought that horrific word back to Somalia.
Famine is the ultimate failure of the international community. In a world abundant with food, entire communities should never, ever have to starve to death. We cannot accept that failure.
When the longest drought in Somalia on record led to initial famine projections, the United States took action. Since 2022’s fiscal year, the United States has provided more than $2.5 billion of lifesaving assistance to the Horn of Africa, and 1.3 billion of that directly to Somalia.
Our funding last year accounted for more than 80 percent of the World Food Program’s emergency operations in the Horn of Africa. Four times greater than the contributions of all other countries combined. That aid has brought food, water, shelter to the Somali people. The recent findings of the Somalia Famine Review Committee showed that the swift increase of assistance, mobilized in large part by us, delayed the onset of famine in many parts of Somalia.
Speed saves lives. Scale-ups prevent deaths. It’s that simple. But unfortunately, we have not yet averted famine. We have delayed it. We have postponed it. But the threat still looms large. In fact, widespread hunger-related deaths can and do occur well before, even in the absence of a famine declaration.
Starting this April, that same risk returns, especially in Somalia’s Bay Region and right here in Mogadishu where so many internally displaced people are most vulnerable. And according to the UN, without contributions from other donors, critical food and nutrition assistance supporting 4.6 million people in Somalia will end by that time. The number of people affected by the drought more than doubled last year. More people need help. Which means more of us have to help.
Today, I’m proud to announce over $40 million in additional funding from the United States to Somalia to save lives and meet humanitarian needs. This is in addition to the $1.3 billion that we’ve already provided. This funding from the American people, through USAID, will address extreme food gaps, treat severe malnutrition in women and children, and combat the current outbreak of deadly diseases like measles and cholera.
Also, during the Africa Leaders Summit, President Biden and the African Union announced a new joint strategy – a new joint strategic partnership to combat food insecurity on the African continent.
But I want to be very clear here. The United States cannot do this alone. This is a collective responsibility. This is about our shared humanity. In recent years, we have cheered as a new group of donors emerged to respond to dire humanitarian crises. Now, today, the United States is asking other donors and the world to go bigger and be bolder. This is the moment to bolster your humanitarian contributions. To make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. To provide food and nutrition and health care access, access to water, sanitation, and shelter. To save lives. To give people dignity.
Those who face famine are, but for the accident of time and place, no different from any of us here in this room.
This is our call to action today. And I’m calling on the international community – especially countries with the means to give more – to heed the call of humanity. Amidst this crisis, it has been devastating to watch some traditional donors cut down their humanitarian budgets. We cannot slash or even merely sustain our aid budgets. We must increase our funding in the year ahead. We must turn this famine postponement into a cancelation. And that will require more countries to contribute. More countries to help. Both bilaterally and multilaterally.
And to that end, I am grateful to the United Nations for surging staff to the Horn last year, and for putting forward a new position dedicated to Famine Prevention and Response Coordination. My message to the UN: Keep going. We need to be even bolder. And braver. Leaders here in Somalia have recognized the threat of famine and asked for help.
Let’s work smarter and across projects that span humanitarian and development assistance to respond to that call. Let’s increase regular reporting in the UN Security Council, because it’s clearly a threat to international peace and security.
The UN has the tools to know where famine is about to strike, when it will happen, and what we can do to help. Let’s use those tools and take anticipatory action. Together, we must also do everything we can to support the safety and security of the local and international NGO community. They have bravely gone further into the field and risked their lives to deliver therapeutic food to remote communities. We must protect them and hold those who target them to account.
Because in 2023, the truth is, there is no reason we can’t get resources to people in acute need. None at all. That’s the difference between today and when I first encountered acute hunger 30 years ago. The technology has improved. We have made major, major advances in therapeutic feeding. We have the tools to track where acute hunger is happening and where it will get worse. We have everything we need. Now, all it takes is for more countries to step up and help the people of Somalia in their time of need.
So, this is my call to the international community. Let’s be ambitious. Let’s end famine forever. Let’s do it together. And let’s make that horrific ‘f’ word irrelevant once and for all.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Okay, now we have time for a couple of questions. We’re going to start with Abdirahman with Garowe Online.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mrs. Ambassador. My name is Abdirahman Jeylanni Mohamed for Garowe Online. So Ambassador, you have stated grave concern, but you said a great famine – let’s avoid the famine. But you announced a new package of assistance for Somalia. So, what are the key areas that (inaudible) in terms of food (inaudible)?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah. It’s hard to pick a priority out of desperation. So, in order to avert a famine, you have to direct your efforts at all, and that’s what we’re doing.
QUESTION: Another question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Early today you met President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. What are the outcomes of that meeting?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I had the opportunity to follow up with the president on a meeting that we had in Washington during the Africa Leaders Summit. We had a very intense discussion about the security situation and his strategy to address the security situation and how we can assist. Of course, we talked about the looming famine and what needs to be done and what kinds of strategic efforts this government can take to address the long-term requirement to address famine so that it doesn’t happen again. We talked about the assistance that the U.S. provided – the U.S. is providing to assist. And I congratulated him on his efforts at state-building and peace and reconciliation.
MODERATOR: Next up we’ll go to Mohamed with The Washington Post.
QUESTION: Hello, Ambassador. My name is Mohamed Botan and I’m with The Washington Post. Earlier today during your speech, you brought up how this severe drought is taking place, particularly in the Bay Region. Based on the current trajectory if things don’t change, do you believe it will spread to other parts of the country? Is there a specific timeframe in regard to the possible famine that awaits Somalia?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Certainly, there is a timeframe. Somalia has had five straight failed rainy seasons, and the next one is in – coming in March-April. So that’s the timeframe we’re looking at right now. If we don’t ramp up our efforts, when those rains fail in March and April, we’re going to see a situation that is more desperate than what we are facing now. And this is a situation that is not just in the Bay Region. It’s a situation that’s taking place here – right here in Mogadishu and further afield in this country. So, we can’t leave any stone unturned. We have to reach out everywhere.
MODERATOR: We have time for one last quick one, and we’ll go to Mike with The Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Issuing a general call for more contributions from other countries allows countries to say, “She’s not talking about us.” Who specifically are you talking about, specifically?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The countries know who we’re talking about, and we have spoken specifically to countries to encourage them and urge them to pay more. I have asked the UN and their headquarters to approach those countries, as well as others, that they may identify who might be able to give more. I’m not going to name and shame today, but the countries know who they are.
QUESTION: How long before you name and shame?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We kind of do it sometimes. It’s possible to do that. But countries know who they are, and we will press them, and when they give more, we will give them credit for giving more.
MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone. That’s all we have time for today. Thank you.