FAO part of UN appeal to bring relief to flood-stricken in Somalia

Ongoing relief projects in Somalia are distributing seeds to needy farmers (above) and providing local blacksmiths with work (below)

"The flood emergency in southern Somalia is far from over", according to a recently issued UN inter-agency report. Months after heavy rains caused the Shabelle and Juba rivers to burst their banks, leading to the worst floods the country has seen in 30 years, hundreds of thousands of people are still affected. Villages and farms remain under water. Water and sanitation systems have collapsed and disease outbreaks are more widespread than ever.

Torrential rains attributed to the El Niño weather phenomenon hit southern Somalia during the last months of 1997 and persisted until early January 1998. Some 2 000 people died and 250 000 were forced to leave their homes. The rains washed crops out of the fields and grain out of the storehouses. More than 20 000 head of livestock were lost.

To help this struggling nation to get back on its feet again, the UN has recently launched a special inter-agency appeal to the international donor community worth over US$15 million.

FAO's contribution to the appeal includes two projects amounting to US$2 million, both to be coordinated by the Organization's Special Relief Operations Service (TCOR). The largest part of the funds - over $1.5 million - has been earmarked to support veterinary services and to control animal diseases. Outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever and other insect-borne diseases have been directly attributed to the heavy rains. The seriously affected livestock sector is of grave importance in a country that depends on its earnings from livestock exports for almost all of its foreign currency.

Under the second project, some $400 000 worth of maize and sorghum seed will be procured and distributed by FAO to some 30 000 affected farming families.

"Other agencies provide immediate food aid and health care. We at FAO concentrate on agricultural rehabilitation," said El-Zein M. E.-Muzamil, the Organization's Emergency Coordinator for Somalia. "Getting these farmers back into production is a highly cost-effective means of helping them and making them independent again."

The new projects continue FAO's effort to provide assistance to southern Somalia's hard-hit farming community. When catastrophe first struck at the end of 1997, FAO quickly organized an airlift of seeds and tools to farming families who had been affected.

Again coordinated by TCOR, the initial agricultural rehabilitation project provided flood-stricken families with $400 000 worth of cowpea and sesame seeds as well as agricultural handtools. The tools were manufactured locally to save time and money and to provide income to poor blacksmiths in the region.

Gabow Ali Hurre, a blacksmith in the village of Buale in the Juba Valley, was given an order for 3 500 hoes. It is the first paid work he's had since the floods began. Go to feature: "Sowing seeds of hope in a war-torn land".

11 May 1998

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