- Thousands of vulnerable people in the Sool and Sanaag districts of Somaliland and Northern Somalia have received life-saving food rations over the past three weeks, the World Food Programme (WFP) today confirmed.
- We have managed to reach nearly 77,000 people affected by the most severe drought in the region for more than twenty years, said Robert Hauser, the WFP Country Director for Somalia, also including Somaliland. "We targeted those least able to cope – malnourished children, the destitute, the disabled and the aged," he added.
In this first round of emergency food distributions WFP has delivered 732 tonnes of mixed food commodities to 39 villages in Somaliland - 15 of them through the Puntland port of Bossaso. "It is enough to last the people about a month," the UN agency says today.
Humanitarian access to the region has been guaranteed following extensive discussions between WFP and the administrations of Somaliland and Puntland, which both claim authority over the Sool and Sanaag districts. These negotiations had also opened up access for other humanitarian agencies.
- We appreciate the security promises made by the two administrations, said Mr Hauser. "They were essential for the peaceful and efficient completion of the distribution process," he added.
Ironically, WFP's operation was hampered by very unusual rains that fell on Somalia at the beginning of December. Small delays were experienced as the trucks delivering the food were stuck in the mud.
- Thirty-two of the 39 villages we assisted were hit by the rain, but it was too late to relieve the food situation, said Mr Hauser. "The downpour brought temporary relief to the water shortages, but 80 percent of the livestock the people here depend on have already died."
Capitalising on this opportunity of safe access, a team from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is now carrying out a nutritional screening exercise. There are indications that the population's nutritional status is deteriorating. WFP is monitoring the situation very closely.
- The operation in the Sool region could last up to six months and will cost an estimated US$ 7.8 million, WFP says in a statement today. Due to the urgency of the relief intervention on the Sool plateau, WFP Somalia has had to use resources from other programmes.
- WFP is appealing to the international community for additional resources to compensate for spending on drought relief, said Mr Hauser. "These other programmes - to support tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS patients as well as work in the fields of education and water - cannot be left unresourced without human cost."
Overall, WFP requires 14,912 tonnes of food, worth about US$ 11.5 million, for the drought emergency and other projects in Somaliland and Somalia until the end of 2004. It has already received about US$ 2.7 million from the US government.
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