Somalia: 1.8 million people still need humanitarian assistance
Food situation will worsen if conflict escalates
31 August 2006, Rome – Around 1.8 million Somalis are still in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and livelihood support at least until the end of this year, FAO said today.
The UN Organization warned that if there is an escalation in the political crisis that results in widespread conflict the humanitarian crisis will be significantly increased for the whole of central and southern Somalia.
The situation is most severe in southern Somalia, where 1.1 million people face a humanitarian emergency or “acute food and livelihood crisis” and need urgent assistance, according to the latest report from FAO's Somalia Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU).
In some regions, like Gedo and parts of Lower and Middle Juba, the nutrition situation is extremely critical, with acute malnutrition rates already exceeding 20 percent. In addition, an estimated 400,000 people throughout the country are identified as Internally Displaced Persons.
The report estimated the 2006 "Gu" season (April-June) cereal crop in southern Somalia at about 113,000 metric tonnes, just 71% of average production during the 1995-2005 period. Below normal production is primarily due to below normal and poorly distributed rainfall. The Gu cereal crop normally accounts for some 70 to 80 percent of annual production in the country.
In some areas of the Gedo and Juba regions, the mixed outcome of the main seasonal Gu rains, combined with very high asset losses (cattle deaths running at 40-60% between April 2005-May 2006), deteriorated water conditions in traditional grazing areas, and financial indebtedness mean that full recovery from the drought could take several years, especially for pastoral communities.
Cereal prices in key markets have begun to decline from record-high levels following the start of the harvest in some regions and the delivery of food aid in other poor production regions. Cereal prices are, however, expected to remain relatively high due to low stock levels and below normal Gu cereal production.
Danger of escalation of conflict
The presence and intensity of conflict will be a key factor in the evolving humanitarian situation in the next few months. If there is an escalation of violence, the total number of people facing a humanitarian crisis could double, according to FAO's report.
“This would not only prolong the time period of the crisis, but further undermine the resilience and abilities of the population to manage future shocks,” said Cindy Holleman, FAO Technical Coordinator for FSAU.
In the worst case scenario, there would be increased population displacement into neighbouring countries, thus worsening the regional nature of the crisis.
Peace is top priority
According to FAO, the most vulnerable groups require urgent interventions focused on immediate needs, such as increased access to food, as well and assistance in sectors like water, shelter, sanitation and health. Interventions to support livelihoods are also needed, such as repair and maintenance of borehole wells and water catchments, support for clearing fallow fields, improving irrigation infrastructure, increasing access to financial credit and debt relief and improving access to human and livestock health services.
Conflict prevention and peace efforts by all national and international actors must be strengthened, FAO also noted. Given the profound humanitarian implications of widespread conflict for the current ongoing humanitarian situation in Southern Somalia this should be a top priority.
Information officer, FAO
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