DATE: 8 May 1997

(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply situation conditions give rise to concern)

Serious Food Shortages Emerging in Southern Somalia

The food situation in the country is rapidly deteriorating following the drought-reduced 1997 " Der" season harvest and the persistent civil conflict. The main "Gu" crop harvested last September was also reduced and in aggregate the 1996/97 cereal production is estimated at about one-half the pre-civil strife level. Prices of grains, which normally decrease after harvest, have risen significantly since last September. The price of sorghum as of 1 May had quadrupled its level of September and at 4 000 Somali Shillings per Kg (US $ 550 per ton) is well above international prices and beyond the purchasing power of a large section of the population. By contrast, increased selling of livestock due to shortages of water and fodder has caused a substantial decline in its price. Traditional coping mechanisms in time of crisis like remittances from abroad and sale of animals are becoming ineffective due to the prevailing high prices of grains. The health and nutritional status of the population continues to deteriorate. There is an urgent need for emergency food assistance, particularly in the most affected southern areas.

The failure of the rains in most parts of the country, coupled with pest infestations, as well as insecurity in several growing areas resulted in a poor harvest of the 1997 "Der" season (from October to January). Cereal production in this season estimated at 45 000 tons was some 60 percent lower than last year’s normal level. Although the cereal output of the 1996 main "Gu" season (from April to August) showed some improvement over the reduced volume of the previous year, it remained well below the pre-civil strife level. Moreover, the increase in production was mainly concentrated in the Northwest and in the Bay region, while all other regions experienced a decline in production. In aggregate, the 1996/97 cereal output is estimated at 288 000 tons, an increase of 10 percent over 1995/96 but some 50 percent below the pre-civil strife volume.

The drought during the 1997 "Der" season resulted also in severe shortages of water for humans and livestock, as well as in poor pasture conditions, adversely affecting livestock and milk production. In pastoral areas of the south, unusual migration patterns took place and deaths of animals were reported. However, abundant rains since late March are benefiting pastures and the situation in pastoral areas is gradually improving.

As a result of two consecutive reduced cereal harvests, cereal stocks held by the farmers have been almost entirely depleted and the food supply situation is precarious, particularly in southern areas. Significant movements of population, mainly from Bay and Bakool regions towards Juba Valley, Mogadishu and Kenya border, in search of food and income generation opportunities continue. Incidence of severe malnutrition among children has risen considerably since February, particularly in the Baidoa and Bay regions. The nutritional situation is reported to be alarming in the recently established settlements for the displaced in Baidoa town, for people coming from villages in Dinsor district, as well as for the local population in the Qansaxdhere and Berdale districts. Malnutrition is also reportedly increasing in Mogadishu and Kisimayo cities; prices of food are beyond the reach of the majority of the population impoverished by the persistent civil conflict which has seriously disrupted the economy. Food and water shortages have also resulted in a deterioration of the health situation of the population, with cases of cholera and tuberculosis on the increase.

Following the poor 1997 "Der" harvest, cereal import requirement for 1996/97 marketing year ending August is estimated at 256 000 tons. Commercial imports are projected at 170 000 tons and the earlier estimate of 43 000 tons of food aid requirement (FAO/WFP Mission of August 1996) has been revised upwards to 86 000 tons. Against this, food aid received in the country by late April 1997 amounted to only 21 000 tons of cereals, of which only a small portion has actually been distributed. Food distribution continues to be hampered by insecurity and, recently, by poor condition of roads due to heavy rains. Substantial donor assistance is needed, including support for logistic operations, to avert a further deterioration of the food supply situation before the next main "Gu" harvest from late August.

Although growing conditions for the 1997 "Gu" season crop are favourable so far, plantings and productivity are expected to remain constrained due to shortages and high prices of seeds and other agricultural inputs, as well as the adverse effects of continuing civil conflict. Sustained relief assistance may therefore be required for the vulnerable population well into 1998.

This alert is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-6-5225-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

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