FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

SPECIAL ALERT

No. 319

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

COUNTRY: SOMALIA

DATE: 13 November 2001

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DROUGHT AND FLOODS JEOPARDISE FOOD SECURITY IN SOMALIA

The food situation in Somalia is rapidly deteriorating following the drought-reduced 2001 main "Gu" season, the lowest in the last seven years. Recent heavy rains in neighbouring Ethiopian highlands have caused an overflow of rivers in southern Somalia displacing large number of people thus aggravating the already serious food supply situation.

More than a decade of civil strife has left Somalia impoverished and mired in an extended humanitarian crisis. Basic infrastructure and Government services, including the ability to deliver the most basic health, education, and other social services, have collapsed. A recovery in food production in the previous two cropping seasons has eased to some extent the food supply difficulties. However, the current poor harvest has easily offset the temporary respite due to weakened coping mechanisms from earlier succession of droughts and the long-term effects of years of insecurity. Furthermore, the continuing ban on livestock imports from eastern Africa by countries along the Arabian Peninsula due to Rift Valley fever is causing substantial loss of income, particularly in northern Somalia. The ban imposed in September 2000 is estimated to have cost the country hard currency earnings estimated at US$120 million.

Reflecting a grim food outlook, cereal prices have increased sharply and are expected to rise further, seriously eroding the purchasing power of a large section of the population. Moreover, the value of the Somali/Somaliland shilling has fallen dramatically. Between August 2000 and August 2001, the value of the Somali shilling in Mogadishu dropped from Ssh 9 500 to Ssh 20 500 for one US dollar, a depreciation of nearly 116 percent, while the value of the Somaliland shilling in Hargeysa fell from SLsh 3 000 to SLsh 6 000 to a US dollar - a fall of 100 percent.

As a result of global economic downturn, remittances, which normally contribute up to an estimated US$500 million to the economy compared to about US$60 million in foreign aid, are expected to dwindle significantly. Access to food of large number of households who depend on remittances is expected to be affected seriously. In addition, the assets of Somalia's biggest remittance company, Al Barakat, have been frozen following the events of 11 September.

In view of the rapidly deteriorating food supply situation, rural people are leaving their villages, many with their livestock in search of food and water, moving into urban areas and crowding around feeding centers where assistance is being provided by the international community. Recent reports indicate that some 800 000 people have been affected and will require 70 000 tonnes of emergency food assistance until the next "Gu" season harvest in August 2002. Of particular concern are some 300 000 vulnerable people threatened by starvation, particularly is Gedo Region in south-eastern Somalia as well as in Hiran, Bay and Bakool. Despite recent rainfall that enabled some plantings, prospects for the "Deyr" secondary season, which runs from October to February, are also uncertain, due to the delayed onset of rains.

The Somalia Aid Co-ordination Body (SACB) - which groups United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisations and donor partners - has appealed for urgent food assistance to the affected population. Non-food assistance, such as water and medical supplies, is also required for thousands of children who are at the risk of disease and malnutrition. Earlier in the year a UN Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeal was launched for US$130 million, to support livelihoods and assist the country's recovery. The international donor community is urged to make urgent pledges and contributions, failing which there is an increased likelihood of large-scale starvation in the most 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, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

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