SOMALIA: Plea for help as drought ravages Puntland

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia have appealed for international aid as parts of the region are ravaged by drought, which is killing livestock, the principal livelihood in the area.

"We issued an appeal for help yesterday in a meeting with agencies represented here," Mohamed Said Kashawiito, the director-general of the ministry of interior, told IRIN on 5 February.

He said most of Puntland was affected by the drought, leading some nomads who lost their livestock to move to urban centres.

The problem is most acute in the districts of Armo, Ufeyn, Iskushuban; parts of Qandala, Alula, Soolka-Beyla and Qardo; and all of Bari region. Parts of Nugal and Mudug are also seriously affected.

He said Sool and parts of Sanaag, which are claimed by both Puntland and the neighbouring self-declared republic of Somaliland, were also affected.

"Sool has the added problem of recent fighting and displacement," Kashawiito added.

The biggest problem was lack of water, Kashawiito said.

"Many people in this area depend on Barkad [water catchments] for their water but the lack of sufficient rains in the last couple of seasons has made matters worse," adding that most of the catchments were "either empty or nearly empty".

He said the Puntland administration was setting up a task force to assist the affected, with water trucking for the worst affected areas "an immediate priority".

Kashawiito said it was doing all it could but lacked the wherewithal to deal with the situation and was calling on international aid agencies to intervene before the situation deteriorated further.

He said the first priority was to deliver water to affected areas and to distribute food to those who had lost their livestock and livelihoods.

"Some of the populations are no longer able to cope and need immediate intervention in terms of food," he warned. "We need urgent assistance," he said.

“Should the Gu rains, which usually start in April, be delayed or fail, the situation will become even more critical,” said Matthew Olins, deputy head of office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-Somalia).

“In central and northern regions NGOs and the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] are responding with emergency water-trucking and repairing boreholes. ICRC, in particular, is carrying out a large-scale water-trucking programme in parts of Galgadud, Mudug and other parts of Puntland.  

“In the first half of February, CARE completed a food aid distribution in Galgadud and South Mudug targeting 230,000 people. Water-trucking for livestock and other emergency food and nutrition interventions are also being considered,” he said.

Source: IRIN