Humanitarian situation deteriorating in Somalia

Monday, April 14, 2008
According to the Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) and Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), the humanitarian situation in Somalia is deteriorating faster than expected. FSAU and FEWSNET 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. 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.

Three key factors have contributed to this rapid deterioration: an abnormally extremely harsh dry season from January to March with higher temperatures and unusually dry winds, increasing civil insecurity, and continuing and increasing high rates of inflation. In south central Somalia, prices of locally produced maize and sorghum have increased by 300%-400% over the last 12 months, and prices of imported foods like rice and vegetable oil increased by an average of 150%, while the Somali shilling depreciated by an average of 65%.

With food and water shortages seriously stressing both pastoralist and poor urban populations, there have been reports of population movements both to and from rural and urban areas. There has also been an outbreak of Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) in Dhahar district, Sanaag region, with seven deaths recorded out of 300 cases since 10 March. The outbreak has been associated with the use of a contaminated underground water catchment after the only borehole in Dhahar town collapsed.

According to field reports, AWD is now spreading to rural and pastoral settlements in the district and the health staff in the area are not able to deal with increasing cases due to limited staff capacity.

During the past week, escalating clashes between Ethiopian/Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and anti-government elements were reported in many parts of south central Somalia. The deteriorating security situation all over the country is slowing humanitarian deliveries and affecting the humanitarian agencies ability to support population in need.

The situation in Somalia is part of the continuation of unusually dry conditions in the Horn of Africa in general, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and parts of Kenya, which are further aggravating food insecurity, water and pasture shortages, and outbreaks of drought associated diseases such as Acute Watery Diarrhea, meningitis, and malnutrition, and which are increasing the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance from April through to at least end of 2008. The Government of Djibouti has declared a state of emergency due to high rates of malnutrition, which, nationally, exceed the critical threshold of 15%. According to food security analysts and weather forecasters, it is only between July and August 2008 that the full-blown impact of a drought will be felt in certain areas of the Greater Horn of Africa.

Source: OCHA