Somalia's self-declared autonomous region of Puntland is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis following poor rains that have created severe water and food shortages, officials said.
"We had very little Deyr [October-December 2008] rain and we have had even less rain in the Gu [April-June 2009] season so far, which has exacerbated an already bad situation," Mohamed Said Kashawiito, the director-general of Puntland's Ministry of Interior, told IRIN on 6 May.
Most of the population relies on livestock, but poor rainfall has left them struggling to make ends meet.
"We are getting reports of livestock dying; in some places 30 to 40 percent of the livestock has died," he said. "What little livestock is left is so weak they cannot even sell it, much less use it for milk and meat."
The situation had also forced many nomads to move to urban centres, he said.
Most affected are the regions of Bari, Nugal and parts of Mudug, and parts of Sool and Sanaag, which are claimed by both Puntland and the neighbouring self-declared republic of Somaliland.
|Impact of drought: Most of the population in Puntland relies on livestock, but poor rainfall has left them struggling to make ends meet - file photo|
Ordinarily, many Puntland residents depend on Barkads (water catchments), but insufficient rains have left most of the catchments dry. The Puntland cabinet, Kashawiito added, was holding an emergency meeting to devise a plan to assist the affected populations.
He called on international aid agencies to scale up their activities to help the affected population.
Abdi Hirsi, the governor of Nugal, said the villages of Kalabeyr, Birta Dheer and Awr Ulus, all in Garowe district, and some others were in desperate need of food and water.
"Some of the populations are no longer able to cope and need immediate intervention in terms of food," he warned. "We need urgent assistance," he said.
In a February report, the Food Security Analysis Unit of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO/FSAU) for Somalia warned that Puntland had experienced a third consecutive seasonal rainfall failure (Deyr October-December 2008).
At least 195,000 people were facing an acute food and livelihood crisis and humanitarian emergency, particularly in Bari, Nugal and Mudug regions, in addition to the long-term IDPs.
Warsame Abdi, Puntland's information minister, told IRIN on 25 March that at least 133 localities were dependent on water trucking but the local authorities did not have the resources to address the situation.
Abdiaziz Sheikh Yusuf, the district commissioner of Jariiban, in Mudug region, said 42 out of 47 townships in the district were facing major water problems.