British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has arrived for a surprise visit to Somalia and is holding talks with the country’s new president, a Somali presidential aide confirmed Wednesday.
The aide insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Johnson was meeting at the airport with Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who was elected last month. The British foreign office did not immediately comment.
Britain is appealing for aid for Somalia’s drought, which has been declared a national disaster amid warnings of a full-blown famine.
The drought, which the United Nations says threatens about half Somalia’s population, or roughly 6 million people, is part of a four-nation humanitarian crisis that the U.N. has called the largest since the world body was formed in 1945.
Britain on Wednesday announced that it would match “pound for pound” the first >5 million ($6.1 million) donated by the public to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s new East Africa Crisis Appeal. The committee is a collection of 13 British aid agencies.
After his own recent visit to Somalia, U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said 2.9 million people in Somalia are at risk of famine and require immediate help “to save or sustain their lives.” He has warned that close to 1 million children under the age of five will be “acutely malnourished” this year.
Current indicators mirror “the tragic picture of 2011 when Somalia last suffered a famine,” said the humanitarian chief. But now the U.N.’s humanitarian partners have a larger footprint, better controls on resources and a stronger partnership with the new government, he said.
“To be clear, we can avert a famine,” O’Brien has said. “But we need those huge funds now.”