Drought-affected people in "desperate situation" - UN

People in the drought-affected regions of northeastern and northwestern Somalia have lost most of their livestock and are now in desperate need of help, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia, Maxwell Gaylard, said.

"The drought affected areas are now in a desperate situation, with inadequate pasture for remaining livestock and the consequent destitution of many families," Gaylard, who recently visited the areas, said in a statement.

"It is imperative that agencies redouble their efforts to address the acute suffering of those in need, that donors provide the means for this to happen and that concerned authorities fully support this emergency response," he added. "Our fears that the recent rains have not been sufficient have now been confirmed," Gaylard added.

Preliminary assessments by the Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), show that up to a million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance throughout Somalia, including more than 600,000 who are directly affected by the current drought.

The drought has spread to parts of Bari, Nugal, Mudug and Galgaduud regions in addition to the existing drought-struck areas of Togdheer, Sool, and Sanaag.

According to the assessments, the crisis was an environmental disaster that had been triggered by a number of years of drought conditions and the consequent destruction of pastoral livelihoods.

Authorities in both the self-declared republic of Somaliland, northwest Somalia and the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, have declared an emergency in the northern territories and have requested international assistance.

In addition to the crisis in the north, poor rainfall has affected the agricultural areas of the lower Juba Valley, northern Gedo, and parts of Hiran and Bakool regions in the south, where crop production was less than 20 percent of normal, according to the statement issued by Gaylard's office.

Gaylard stressed that although the immediate humanitarian needs required an urgent expansion of emergency operations, "it is also important for us to start developing an understanding of how communities will manage to rebuild their lives, given that many families will be unable to return to the pastoral livelihood due to extreme rates of livestock loss."

"The prospect of thousands of destitute pastoralists without the means to transit to other means of supporting themselves is a real challenge to the local authorities and the international community," he added.