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Food crisis looms in Somalia

Once again Somali families are facing the threat of starvation
FAO/11770/W. Gartung

Much of Somalia may face "starvation on a large scale" if the international community fails to provide the country with substantial amounts of food aid, warns a GIEWS Special Alert released 8 July.

The report indicates that 70 000 people have been displaced by renewed civil strife and food shortages, and warns that more than a million people face serious food shortages, with over 400 000 at risk of starvation.

Starvation-related deaths had already been recorded in April, after insufficient rainfall led to an extremely low early-season harvest. At that time, Somali farmers were counting on better weather and increased yields during the year's main growing season to alleviate the crisis. However, the needed rains did not come, and the latest GIEWS Special Alert reports that once again there has been widespread crop failure.

The desperate situation has been made worse by an outbreak of armyworms, which has ravaged several of the southern regions of the country. The country also continues to suffer through a prolonged civil war - interfactional fighting is reported to have intensified - which has disrupted commercial activities and forced thousands of people to flee their homes. The Special Alert offers a succinct and sombre forecast for Somalia: "The food outlook for 1999 and beyond is extremely grim."

Somalia's total food aid requirements in 1998/99 were estimated at 125 000 tonnes, including nearly 52 000 tonnes of emergency food aid. As of early July, only a quarter of the emergency food aid had been delivered. Although renewed fighting has made food distribution extremely difficult, without continued large-scale food assistance into the year 2000, the report says, the country will face a major food crisis.

16 July 1999

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