Persistently heavy rains since mid-October caused serious floods, hundreds of deaths and extensive damage to infrastructure and property. Large numbers of people have been displaced. Important crop and livestock losses in agricultural areas are also reported, particularly in southern areas along the Juba and Shebelle rivers.
The 1997/98 "Deyr" crops, which normally account for some 20 percent of the annual cereal production, had been planted just before the heavy rains started. Following torrential precipitation over a month, the maize and sorghum crops have been adversely affected in the regions of Lower and Middle Juba, Lower and Middle Shebelle, but also in the sorghum belt area of Bay, Bakool and Hiraan regions, and in growing areas of the North-west. 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. Prospects for the harvest from January are, therefore, poor and the 1997/98 "Deyr" cereal production is anticipated to be the fourth consecutive reduced harvest. Farmersí food reserves, seeds and agricultural inputs have also been destroyed by the floods. Losses of livestock are provisionally estimated at 11 000 head.
The flood has exacerbated an already precarious food supply situation in several parts of the country, resulting from a succession of bad harvests and the disruption of agricultural and marketing activities due to persistent civil conflict and insecurity. Prices of basic food, which were already at high levels, have increased three-fold since the floods started in the southern affected areas. The situation is particularly critical along the Juba river, from Jamame to Buale, where serious food shortages have developed as towns are isolated by flood waters.
For the country as a whole, the deterioration of crop prospects for the 1997/98 "Deyr" crop will result in a much larger deficit of food grains than previously estimated. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, fielded in August this year, estimated for the marketing year 1997/98 (September/August) an import requirement of 247 000 tons of cereals of which 215 000 tons were expected to be covered commercially and 32 000 tons by food aid. This estimate was based on the assumption of a normal secondary "Deyr" crop of about 95 000 tons. With current indications pointing to another reduced "Deyr" crop, the cereal deficit has been revised upwards to 280 000 tons and the food aid requirements to 60 000 tons.
Food and non-food relief is currently being provided to the affected
population but persistently bad weather and insecurity are hampering relief
operations. Further food aid pledges and assistance with transport for
relief distributions, mainly by helicopters and boats, are also urgently
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