- The extensive drought in Somaliland's interior Togdheer region is leading to a growing humanitarian crisis for the assessed 350,000 people living there. While water sources are drying and livestock is diminished, social services are collapsing, a new report warns.
The US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) yesterday published an assessment of the food security situation in the Togdheer region, located south-east of Somaliland's main cities Hargeisa and Berbera. The arid interior zone, at the Ethiopian border, is facing heavy consequences of a prolonged drought, the field study showed.
Livestock production is the main economic activity providing food, income and employment in the region. "A combination of inadequate pastures, livestock diseases, high consumption and disposal has reduced livestock ownership with mortality rates estimated at 40-50 percent for shoats and 15-20 percent for camels," the FEWS study found.
The food security situation therefore is becoming critical. According to the study, there is now "nil production and consumption of milk and ghee, with consumption of meat from dying stock contributing a significant food source."
Food purchases from the markets were further reported to have declined because of reduced livestock prices, and increased cost of imported food commodities. Local food production (sorghum and maize) was negligible. It was anticipated that the food security would deteriorate as the drought persists. In general, therefore, "households' energy intake has reduced," the FEWS study found.
The ongoing drought has reduced the poor households' food source and income. According to FEWS, "livestock deaths are expected to increase during the coming dry season - from January to mid April - due to water and pasture depletion."
The lack of water is now also becoming an enhanced problem for the region's human population. According to the study, access to water in general is limited for the poor groups. "Generally, the water infrastructure is in poor condition with poor sanitary conditions. The quality of water is poor and deteriorating."
The combined factors of dropping food availability and lessened access to clean water are now seriously affecting the health situation of the population in the Togdheer region. Acute malnutrition was frequently observed, in addition to an increase in the prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases, measles, whooping cough and ARI.
In this deteriorating situation, also the limited social services offered by the Somaliland government have started to erode. Access to health services is increasingly limited although the government still is handing out 'the Renewal Health Post kits'.
Also the region's educational system is withering as the crisis grows stronger. The schools' drop out rate is now believed to reach about 43 percent, with two schools closed due to severe drought and migration. FEWS warns that "school dropouts will increase in the affected rural areas," causing long-term damages to the development of the region.
Finally, also the environmental situation in the Togdheer region was observed to be deteriorating, probably with permanent consequences. "There has been extensive rangeland degradation leading to loss of nutritive forage and browse," the FEWS observer team noted.
- The establishment of illegal private enclosure has reduced communal grazing land, the report added. "There is significant tree cutting for charcoal production and for fencing off these enclosures. Gully formations have increased."
The FEWS team recommended the government and international society to enhance its support to the drought-ridden region. Free food distribution is already being launched, but the FEWS report also emphasised on the need to intervene in human and animal health and to stop the region's environmental degradation.
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