Thousands of drought-affected people in Somalia’s central and southern regions need urgent help after losing most of their livestock, the economy’s mainstay, Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, the Interior Minister, told IRIN.
"I have been in touch with people throughout the regions and the reports we are getting is that the drought is widespread and the situation of the people is very grave, with water shortages the biggest problem for both animals and people," Omar said on 3 September.
He said almost all the regions were affected. “Livestock are dying in their thousands, with families losing everything.”
He said the drought was forcing many families into towns that had no way of coping. “On the outskirts of most small towns from Gedo [southwest] to Galkayo [northeast], you will now find nomadic families in flimsy shelters looking for help.”
Omar said the transitional government could not address the situation alone and appealed to the international community for assistance. “This is bigger than anything we have seen in a long time. I hope our partners will do their utmost to mitigate the suffering of the people.”
Ahmed Ali Hilowle, president of the self-declared state of Galmudug, in Central region, told IRIN by telephone from Galkayo that most of the area was suffering from prolonged drought: "Even camels are dying. It is a disaster.”
He said: "We had two years of dismal rains and the people are on the verge of dying.” The area is dependent on barkads (water catchments) for water “and almost all are dry. We are now trucking water sometimes over 100km,” he said, adding that one water tanker, with 200 drums [each 200l], costs US$200. “Few, if any, can afford that.”
Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
|A Somali refugee woman with her child as she waits to be admitted to Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya in 2008: Thousands of Somalis are now trapped in horrifically overcrowded camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia itself , says Oxfam|
An aid worker in Dusa Mareb, Galgadud’s capital, said the town was already hosting many people displaced from war-torn Mogadishu and that the arrival of pastoralists was overwhelming the host community. He warned: “if the coming Deyr [short] rains fail, we will be facing a major catastrophe”.
The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization) said in a recent statement the country was facing the worst humanitarian crisis of the past 18 years, with an estimated 3.76 million people - half the population - needing aid.
Omar said the transitional government was prepared to do whatever it could to help the agencies obtain the access they need.
“We will also help them identify reliable local partners who will deliver the aid to those people the foreign agencies cannot reach.”
Meanwhile, the international aid agency Oxfam said the country was suffering the worst drought in a decade and a major increase in conflict.
In a statement issued on 3 September the agency said: "A total failure of the international community to deal effectively with the Somalia crisis and help end the war is resulting in a spiral of human suffering and exodus to neighbouring countries."
It said hundreds of thousands of Somalis who fled the violence were now trapped in horrifically overcrowded or poorly managed camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia itself.
“Somalis flee one of the world’s most brutal conflicts and a desperate drought, only to end up in unimaginable conditions in camps that are barely fit for humans. Hundreds of thousands of children are affected, and the world is abandoning the next generation of Somalis when they most need our help. Why does it seem like you matter less in this world if you are from Somalia?” asked Robert van den Berg, Oxfam International’s spokesman for the Horn of Africa.
He called on the international community to "put Somalia top of their list and do more than simply keeping the country on life-support".