- Below average rainfalls in Eritrea and Somaliland are intensifying the drought that has had disastrous effects on the region's food security during the last four years. As agricultural activities mostly have stopped in the main part of both countries, renewed food aid efforts are deemed necessary to avoid a humanitarian crisis.
The World Food Programme (WFP) today draws an alarming picture of the food security situation in Somaliland and Eritrea in its weekly 'Emergency Report'. "Disappointing rains" were said to "intensify the drought" in Somaliland and rains in most of Eritrea continued to be "below average".
Parts of Somaliland, especially the eastern Sool and Sanaag highlands, have experienced drought conditions for four years. Eritrea has reported failed rains for more than two year. In both countries, lack of food and water has disrupted rural societies and made the population heavily dependent on food handouts from the government and relief organisations such as the WFP.
According to the latest updates from the UN agency, the dire situation is set to continue for at least one more agricultural season. Large-scale food aid programmes will have to be kept alive.
In Somaliland, a non-recognised Horn state, the seasonal Gu rains have been abnormal after having failed already for the past four years. With this rainy season almost over, the situation in Somaliland "might develop into a full-scale drought," WFP warns. About only 20 percent of the area have had reportedly enough rainfall during April and May.
- In certain areas, already the destitution is on the raise and weak animals continue to die, WFP reports from Somaliland. "All signs indicate that the drought-affected people will need continuous relief assistance in the coming months," the UN agency adds.
The situation in nearby Eritrea is not very different. Here, "prospects for the 2004 agricultural season remain poor," WFP says. In Eritrea's Northern and Southern Red Sea regions, the lack of rains has already adversely affected agricultural activities. WFP monitors in the area had reported that land preparation in those regions had not yet commenced.
Another worrying sign was that seasonal migration by Eritrean nomadic communities in search of water had stopped, as there was no place to look for water. Further, "many villages are reported to be deserted except for a few village leaders who remained to safeguard community assets and property," WFP reports from the troubled Red Sea regions.
- In Eritrea's Anseba region, the rains, which normally fall in May, have delayed, resulting in severe water shortages and delays in sowing of the main cereal crops, the UN agency says. Grazing lands had been reduced and the price of animal feed increased to 400 Nakfa (about US$ 30) for one camel load, which many poor pastoralists cannot afford.
The current situation was further "aggravated" by a general lack of seeds for planting long-cycle staples such as maize, sorghum and other cereals. According to FAO, another UN agency, donors had so far only covered 2,300 tons of the estimated seed requirement of 7,000 tons. Only 700 tons of seeds have been effectively purchased of the amount pledged.
As it is becoming clearer that renewed international food aid will be necessary, the Eritrean Ministry of Health and several UN agencies are now closely mapping the situation. In particular the malnutrition rates and children's health situation is now mapped.
The WFP, meanwhile, is preparing to issue donor alerts to address the upcoming food crisis in both Eritrea and Somaliland. Still however, the agency is struggling to feed those Eritreans and Somalilanders affected by the past droughts.
Only in Somaliland, WFP expects to need at least extra 20,000 tons of food commodities "to further assist drought victims and continue the normal ongoing recovery programmes till the end of the year." In Eritrea, this amount of food needs is far higher. Here, WFP holds food stocks enabling it to respond to the needs of 600,000 drought-affected people until the end of this month.
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