Special Alert issued on food supply in Somalia

Hundreds of people have died and thousands have been forced to flee their homes and land in southern Somalia, where a month of torrential rains has caused severe flooding.

Serious food shortages have developed in some areas and significant losses of crops and livestock have been reported, according to a Special Alert issued by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS). Flooding and damage have been particularly severe in the country's major cereal producing areas, along the Juba and Shebelle rivers in the south. Losses of livestock are provisionally estimated at 11 000 animals, according to the Alert.

The 1997/98 "Deyr" crops, which had just been planted when the heavy rains started, normally provide about 20 percent of the country's annual cereal production. The Alert says: "A detailed assessment of the agricultural losses is not yet possible, but preliminary estimates indicate that at least one-half of the cereal crops in southern growing areas have suffered serious flood damage".

The Deyr harvest will be the fourth consecutive reduced harvest, exacerbating an already precarious food supply situation in several parts of the country. Years of civil conflict have severely undermined the country's agricultural production and harvests earlier this year were hit by drought. Basic food prices, which were already high, have tripled since the floods started in the affected southern areas. The situation is particularly critical along the Juba river, from Jamame to Buale, where serious food shortages have developed as towns are cut off by the flood waters.

For the country as a whole, the reduced Deyr harvest will mean a much larger deficit of food grains than previously estimated - pushing up the need for food aid from 32 000 to 60 000 tonnes. The total cereal deficit has been revised upwards to 280 000 tonnes. Farmers' few remaining food reserves, seeds and agricultural inputs have also been destroyed by the floods.

28 November 1997

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