By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Somalia has transformed itself from a "failed to recovering state" in recent years, but any cutbacks in support for it could spark a new exodus of refugees from the conflict-torn Horn of Africa nation, the U.N. Somalia envoy said on Monday.
The Western-backed Somali government is battling to rebuild the impoverished country after more than two decades of bloodshed. Islamist al Shabaab militants ruled much of Somalia until 2011, when it was driven out of the capital Mogadishu by African and Somali troops. It remains a potent force.
"Somalia has to compete for attention and resources in an ever more troubled world," United Nations special representative for Somalia David Kay told the Security Council.
"But scaling back now will crush the hopes of millions of Somalis, endanger peace and security in the Horn of Africa and East Africa, bolster violent extremism globally and risk a renewed exodus of refugees," he said. "Reducing effort should not be an option."
Kay said that the overall situation in Somalia had improved considerably in recent years, while cautioning there was "still a long way to go." He hoped a nationwide election planned for next year would be held "on time and be more inclusive than in 2012."
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief-of-staff, Susana Malcorra, said that some 3.2 million people in Somalia rely on humanitarian assistance in order to survive. She also warned that the number was expected to increase while promised aid pledges have yet to materialize.
"The dire situation is growing worse," she told the 15-nation Security Council.
"We are expecting dangerous flooding and drought," Malcorra added. "Our Humanitarian Response Plan (for Somalia) is only 36 percent funded, so we cannot carry out our life-saving programs. Donors can make the difference between life and death."
Refugees from Somalia have been among those migrating to Europe from North Africa. The flood of migrants and refugees to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East has resulted in the world's biggest refugee crisis since World War Two, the United Nations has said.
Most of the refugees are fleeing the wars in Syria and Iraq but many are Somalis.
Highlighting the continued instability in Somalia, last week security forces in Mogadishu fought for several hours before clearing a hotel of al Shabaab gunmen who had stormed the building after two bombs ripped into it. At least 13 people were killed.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)