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SOMALIA: Drought-displaced "in tens of thousands"

HARGEISA/NAIROBI, 30 March 2011 (IRIN) - With drought spreading to almost all regions of Somalia, officials and aid workers have expressed concern for those affected, saying drought was now a major cause of displacement.

"Drought, not insecurity, is now the main reason for new displacement in Somalia," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA Somalia) said in a March update. "More than 52,000 people have been displaced due to drought since 1 December 2010, many of them moving to urban areas in search of assistance."

In particular, the capital, Mogadishu, had experienced an increased influx of drought-affected pastoralists, said OCHA.

"Although migration of people and livestock is not unusual during the dry season, this appears to be the first time ever pastoralists and their livestock have migrated into the capital, a situation that portrays the severity of the drought situation in the country," OCHA said.

Abdi Haji Gobdon, spokesman for Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), told IRIN on 30 March: "The drought is spreading and getting worse. We are getting reports not only of livestock dying but people too.

"There is not a single region from the south to the north that is not suffering,” he said.

Aid appeal

Gedo in the southwest, parts of southern regions and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, as well as central Somali regions, are the worst affected, according to Gobdon.

"Livestock are dying in their thousands, with families losing everything," he said, adding that the drought had forced many pastoralists into camps for the displaced. "They have lost everything and they think they may get help if they reach the camps."

Gobdon said the TFG could not address the situation alone and appealed to the international community for assistance.

"The problem with this drought is how long it has been going on," he said.

Gu rains should have started in most parts of the country. Gobdon said: "In a good year, it should be raining by now, but we have not seen a drop yet."

Targeting livelihoods

In response to the drought, the Common Humanitarian Fund for Somalia allocated US$4.5 million in March in emergency funding, targeting agriculture and livelihoods; water, sanitation and hygiene.

In the self-declared republic of Somaliland, more than four months of drought have led to disease outbreaks and severe water shortages, with government officials appealing for help for the most drought-affected populations.

"The government of Somaliland has appealed for support; so far we have collected about $500,000 from the public, which we spent on water-trucking to the drought-affected in remote areas," Hussein Abdi Du'alle, Somaliland's Minister for Water and Minerals, told a press conference in the capital, Hargeisa.

"Initially, only three regions were affected but now the drought has reached everywhere," Mohamed Muse Awale, the chairman of Somaliland's National Environmental Research and Disaster Preparedness Commission, said.

Mohamed Abdillahi, an elder in Hudun, 83km northeast of Las-anod district in Sool region, told IRIN: "The biggest problem is water shortages; water is trucked from Burou in Togdheer region, 260-270km away, and its price keeps rising. For example, a barrel [200l] of water was only $8 three months ago, now it is $15."

Deaths reported

In Sool region, eastern Somaliland, officials have reported four deaths following an outbreak of diarrhoea. Ali Bile, head of Awr-Bogeys health post in Sool, 50km northeast of Las-anod, said all four deaths - a man and three children - occurred in the past week.

Ali Bulale, mayor of Hudun district, said at least 40 people in the district had contracted diarrhoea, mostly children.

"The district was one of the few places which enjoyed the Deyr [long] rains; this caused many people from Sanag, Sool, Togdheer and even from Puntland to gather here in search of pasture," Bulale said. "Now nothing of the pasture is left."

Ahmed Abdi Bile, coordinator of the Red Crescent in Somaliland, said: "There are six mobile health-sector teams giving food to malnourished children in the regions of Sool, Sanag and Sahel. With the collaboration of UNICEF [UN Children's Fund], there are also seven more teams doing the same job in the regions of Sool, Sahel, Togdher, Awdal and Sanag."

Mark Bowden, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, has called for humanitarian access to support Somalis affected by drought.

"I am extremely concerned about the impact of the current drought on the well-being of children, women and the general population in Somalia," he said in a statement. "Severe water shortages require collective efforts and further cooperation at all levels to deliver a well-coordinated response to mitigate the consequences of the drought on the lives of the Somali population."

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Theme (s): Conflict, Early Warning, East African Food Crisis, Natural Disasters, Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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