Somalia is on the brink of a serious and prolonged humanitarian crisis due to critical shortages in water and food that are likely to get worse, according to a new report by international aid agency Oxfam.
The Oxfam report is based on an assessment across 40 regions of Somalia and shows the situation in the south of Somalia – particularly in Gedo, Lower Juba and Bakool regions – is particularly critical with alarming malnutrition figures.
Poor rains, combined with the loss of livestock and income during last year’s drought, have left people in these regions fearing they will not have enough food in the next four months.
Nearly half of people Oxfam spoke to as part of the assessment were regularly skipping meals, breast-feeding of children had declined sharply with significant knock-on effects on infant nutrition levels, and there was a disproportionally high death rate of pregnant women.
Oxfam Australia’s Africa humanitarian coordinator, Richard Simpson, said the aid agency feared that without increased and sustained aid from the international community, many more Somalis may fall back into crisis.
“A ‘perfect storm’ of last season’s poor rains, crop failure, death of livestock and insecurity mean people who were only just coping last year are now heavily reliant on aid,” Mr Simpson said. “In many areas people do not have enough to eat or clean water to drink. We must act now across the whole country to avoid a deepening crisis.”
Oxfam surveyed more than 1800 households during the past two months to assess the impact of poor rainfall during the April-June rainy season. Some women in rural areas said they had to walk up to 18 kilometres to collect their household’s daily water supply, fearing for their safety throughout the journey.
Evidence of waterborne disease is increasing and 32 people are reported to have died in a suspected cholera outbreak. Without clean water sources, this could quickly escalate.
Oxfam says long-term support to tackle the systemic problems that turn recurrent droughts into humanitarian emergencies is essential, such as investing in improved management of water and road rehabilitation to help people cope better with food and water crises.
The Australian Government contributed more than $140 million to last year’s East Africa food crisis response, much of which has been directed to Somalia.
For interviews or more information please contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795 or firstname.lastname@example.org