FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

SPECIAL ALERT No.298:
SOMALIA

Date: 4 November 1999

(Circulated only in situations where foodcrops or supply conditions give rise to concern)

FOOD CRISIS IN SOUTHERN SOMALIA INTENSIFIES

The food supply situation in southern Somalia gives cause for serious concern following an upsurge in inter-clan fighting which has disrupted food production activities and assistance to civil war and drought victims. Mounting civilian casualties, destruction of property, a large-scale population displacement and a number of starvation-related deaths have been reported. The food crisis has been exacerbated by the extension of roadblocks and obstruction of aircraft runways that are hindering the movement of goods and food commodities, including food aid. Latest reports indicate that nearly 1.6 million people in Mogadishu, Lower and Middle Juba, parts of Gedo and Lower Shabelle are not accessible to humanitarian agencies. The escalation of violence against humanitarian workers has further reduced the flow and distribution of humanitarian assistance.

An FAO/WFP Mission which visited the country last August found that the 1999 main "Gu" season, which normally accounts for 75 to 80 percent of annual food production, had largely failed due to low and poorly distributed rains, uncontrolled crop pests and farmers' displacement. This crop failure followed six consecutive poor harvests since 1996, caused by adverse weather, lack of agricultural inputs, the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and continuous population displacements. The most severely affected areas include the "bread basket" regions of Bay and Bakool in southern Somalia. The 1999 main "Gu" cereal production, estimated at about 136 000 tonnes, is about one-third below the post-civil war (1993-1998) average. Prospects for the "Deyr" secondary season, which runs from October to January in the agriculturally important regions of southern Somalia, are not promising, with below-normal rains received so far. Even assuming a post-civil war average "Deyr" harvest of 70 000 tonnes, the deficit in 1999/2000 marketing year (August/July) is estimated at 310 000 tonnes.

Reflecting a grim food outlook, cereal prices have risen sharply in September/October compared to the same period last year. In addition to short supplies, cereal price increases, notably in Mogadishu, are driven by an increase in money supply, as warring factions inject more money into the market.

Elsewhere in Somalia, despite recent beneficial rains which improved pasture conditions, the food situation remains precarious for a large segment of the population due to the cumulative effects of droughts. In north-eastern Somalia (Puntland), an estimated 50 000 displaced and vulnerable people are in need of urgent food assistance, while in north-western Somalia (Somaliland) some 40 000 to 60 000 poor pastoralists in Sool and Toghdeer, suffer from acute food insecurity.

For the 1999/2000 marketing year (August/July) total food aid requirements were estimated by the August Mission at about 70 000 tonnes. However, with the recent escalation of the civil conflict and uncertain Deyr season, the amount of food assistance required can only increase. Where conditions allow, aid agencies are providing emergency assistance, but more funds are needed to cover the food needs until the next main harvest in July 2000. At the beginning of this year, the UN launched a Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal (CAP) for Somalia for 1999, totalling US$64 million; as of mid-October, donor contributions amounted to around US$35 million, or 55 percent. The CAP for the year 2000 has just been launched, totalling US$ 50.6 million. The international donor community is urged to make generous contributions failing which there is an increased likelihood of starvation in the worst-affected areas.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

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