Drought worsens crisis in Somalia

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 24 Jan 2011

Somalia is suffering its worst drought in years and failed rains are already devastating half a million lives, international aid agency Oxfam warned today.

An ongoing conflict in the country – now in its 23rd year – together with the drought has pushed hundreds of thousands of Somalis beyond their ability to cope, the agency said.

The central and southern regions are suffering the worst effects, where some areas have received 0 – 15 per cent of their usual rainfall. In the Gedo region of the south, the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) is reporting 25 per cent of the population to be acutely malnourished. In the nearby Juba regions, that number rises to 30 per cent.

Livestock herds have been decimated, forcing destitute pastoralists to migrate to towns and villages in search of aid. The failure of the Deyr rainy season, normally October to December, has left severe food and water shortages that are expected to get worse in the coming months.

“The region has been hit very hard,” said Zachariah Imeje, Program Officer for Oxfam. “Drought and hunger are so severe that thousands have fled the relative security of their villages and headed to Mogadishu. They are desperate enough that they will risk the fighting and shelling there, in order to find food.”

“More than two million people in Somalia were already living in crisis. Additional support will be needed for them to cope, or this drought could push them over the edge into an even more acute catastrophe,” said Imeje.

The ongoing conflict makes access to the worst hit regions difficult. In some areas, access for humanitarian organisations seeking to reach those in need continues to be severely restricted due to the security situation.

Oxfam calls upon all local authorities to allow the safe and secure passage of humanitarian aid and personnel to those populations in need. It also calls upon donors to continue to provide generous support for emergency needs and long-term development in order to strengthen the livelihoods sector to prevent Somalis from falling into poverty.

“We are getting desperate,” said Osman, a pastoralist in Hiraan Province, north of the capital. “There isn’t any grass available for the animals and the shallow wells have dried. Buying water is expensive and out of reach for most of the pastoralists like me, we simply do not have money to buy the water. The worst part is this is expected to continue for the next three months. We used to move to the neighboring regions before, but this time the entire country is the same, there is no better place.”

“The animals are dying of hunger and so are the people because they were our source of survival. We can’t sell (our livestock) as there is no market. We can’t feed them, we are in a predicament,” said Osman.

With little government support to depend on, Somalia is one of the world’s poorest countries. Two decades of conflict have left infrastructure in tatters, and an entire generation has grown up without peace. More than two million people are dependent on humanitarian aid for survival and one in six Somali children suffer from acute malnutrition.

For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795 or cheecheel@oxfam.org.au