Somalia: Humanitarian situation worries UN

Published on Saturday 12th April 2008

United Nations, Apr 12: The humanitarian situation in Somalia is deteriorating with the number of people in need of emergency aid reaching nearly a half million, the U.N. humanitarian office said Friday.


Describing the situation worsening faster than expected the Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) and Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), have revised upwards the number of people in a state of humanitarian emergency from 315,000 to 425,000 and the number of newly displaced people from 705,000 to 745,000. In a statement the agency said, the most severely affected areas are Galgaduud, Mudug, Hiraan, coastal Shabelle and pockets in Sool, Nugal and Hawd areas in the north. FSAU is currently assessing the status of the urban population, an exercise that is likely to increase the current estimated figure of 1.8 million to 2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance or livelihood support. The poverty-stricken nation of 7 million has been mired in chaos since clan-based warlords toppled a dictatorship in 1991 and then turned on each other. Adding to its woes, a weak U.N.-backed transitional government is struggling to quash an Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Somalia's plight has been deteriorating recently and listed three key factors: an extremely harsh dry season, rising insecurity and increasing high inflation rates. The office, known as OCHA, said the Somalians who need emergency assistance ? mainly food and water ? has grown to 425,000. It said it based its findings on two U.S.-funded groups that monitor food security: the Kenyan-based Food Security Analysis Unit and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. The two also reported that the number of newly displaced people in Somalia has reached nearly 750,000, the U.N. office said. OCHA said the deteriorating security situation is slowing the delivery of humanitarian aid and affecting the ability of aid agencies to help people. In some parts of the country, the price of maize and sorghum has increased up to 400 percent in the last 12 months, and the price of imported food including rice and vegetable oil has gone up 150 percent, OCHA said. The price hikes come as the Somali shilling depreciated by an average of 65 percent, it said. The U.N. office also reported an outbreak of acute diarrhea in some areas in the north caused by contaminated underground water, with 300 cases and seven deaths since early March. Diarrhea is spreading and health authorities aren't able to deal with the caseload because of limited staff, it said. "The situation in Somalia is part of the continuation of unusually dry conditions in the Horn of Africa in general ... which are further aggravating food insecurity, water and pasture shortages and outbreaks of drought associated diseases," OCHA said. But OCHA warned that the "full-blown impact of a drought" will be felt in certain areas of the greater Horn of Africa in July and August, according to food security analysts and weather forecasters.