- In response to severe drought in parts of the Sool and Sanaag regions of Somaliland and northern Somalia, UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies begin a second phase of emergency interventions this week, the UN reports today. An armed conflict between Somaliland and Puntland could jeopardise this aid, however.
A succession of failed rains over the past four years has resulted in large-scale food insecurity among pastoral populations in the central regions of Sool and Sanaag. The two regions are contested between the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland and the northern Somalia autonomous province Puntland.
In early October, an assessment mission, led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), found the population here hard hit by loss of livestock and purchasing power due to severely depleted reservoirs and grazing land. Though no disease outbreaks were reported and malnutrition was not yet widespread, the UN agencies responded to immediate needs and initiated a variety of preventative interventions targeting a population of at least 90,000.
Most recently, two missions have taken place, the last of which ended on 2 January, during which ten UNICEF and WHO-supported teams visited 72 villages in Dhahar, Eilf Afwein, Hudun and Taleh districts in Sool and Sanaag, UNICEF reports today.
The teams had provided vaccination services, clinical and antenatal care, together with nutritional screening and dry supplementary rations, intended to complement WFP food distributions. Work with the organisation Horn Relief also had taken place, including the ongoing rehabilitation of 33 shallow wells and the provision of water tanks and jerry cans.
These measures were seen helping to alleviate immediate needs, but sustained interventions were crucial. "The situation is fragile," says Robert McCarthy of UNICEF Somalia. "Our planning is based on the assumption that children will be increasingly vulnerable to malnutrition and disease in the coming weeks. In particular, nomadic communities who have lost significant numbers of their livestock will require continued food and non-food assistance."
Later this week, UNICEF and WFP are set to begin the second phase of food, medical and nutritional interventions. The humanitarian response will then continue to be coordinated with local and international organisations and UN agencies. Monitoring activities ensure a consistently up-to-date understanding of the developing situation.
Creating some concern among humanitarian agencies, however, is the growing tension between the local administrations in Somaliland and north-east Somalia (Puntland), both of whom claim the drought-affected areas as their territory. "Ongoing interventions could be jeopardised or even halted if the situation escalates into violent conflict," UNICEF today warned.
While the Sool and Sanaag regions were placed within the British colony of Somaliland, the leaders of Puntland claim that the majority population of the drought stricken region is of the same clans as is the population in Puntland.
The situation escalated on 20 December after the incursions of militias supported by Puntland leader Abdillahi Yusuf’ into the Sool region. This later has led to the complete occupation of Las Anod by Puntland forces of the area historically under Somaliland's administration. Aid workers fear that Somaliland now could answer.
According to Leila Pakkala of UNICEF Somalia, "efforts to reach affected communities, often in remote areas, have been possible because of the cooperation and assistance of the concerned authorities in Somaliland and Puntland. We appeal to them to maintain a stable environment and ensure the continuity and effectiveness of response activities."
- With no rains expected before April, further losses to livestock and other assets are expected, UNICEF warns. "Prompt interventions are therefore critical in preventing further deterioration of the situation."
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