WFP says food shortages widespread

Tens of thousands of Somalis face acute food shortages due to poor rains and the prospect of a failed grain harvest, says the World Food Programme (WFP). In the south-central Bay and Bakool regions, much of the vital sorghum crop had already failed due to drought, and much of the remainder had been damaged by insects, WFP said in its emergency report. “This is an early warning of a very serious food situation,” said Kevin Farrell, WFP country representative in Somalia. Some poorer families are barely able to afford one meal per day, with others migrating to urban centres in search of work. Even if rains improved in the next few weeks, it was already too late for most crops to recover, he added.

In the Somali region of Ethiopia, heavy rains had improved conditions for the majority of the population, the UN food agency said. However, there was still great concern over drought-displaced people in the region. In Denan town (Gode Zone), the drought-displaced were suffering from very high malnutrition rates, and now outnumbered the town’s resident population. There were also serious health concerns about the drought-displaced population of Hartishek (Jijiga Zone), where poor sanitation and hygiene had led to high morbidity rates, and high levels of malnutrition among under-fives. WFP said it was currently providing assistance to some one million people in the region.

In Eritrea, the drought-affected region of Anseba had still not received any significant rainfall, and there was a serious risk that another harvest would be lost, WFP said. The war-affected Gash Barka Region had received increased rainfall, but crop planting was being hampered by massive land erosion and the presence of land mines, WFP said. WFP added that it had distributed emergency food to nearly half a million war-affected people in Gash Barka and Debub regions, which together produced 70 percent of Eritrea’s food output before war broke out with Ethiopia in 1998.