Somalia drought could threaten millions

The United Nations and aid groups warned of a possible looming catastrophe as a severe drought plunged millions of Somalis into crisis after rains failed for several consecutive seasons in the Horn of Africa nation.

The drought has increased the number of malnourished children in some regions, displaced thousands of people and killed thousands of animals. Officials in a central Somali region said 18 people died of drought-related effects.

"The situation is dire. It is an added vulnerability to an already extremely vulnerable people," the UN's humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, said after touring camps for displaced people in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

Ms Amos's one-day trip was intended, she said, "to remind the people that there is still a long, ongoing problem in Somalia. I don't want the people to forget Somalia. When you have an ongoing problem anywhere in the world, it is easy to slip it from the agenda".

The drought is the latest in a long line of problems for Somalia, which has been mired in conflict since 1991, when warlords toppled the country's last central government, then turned on each other.

According to the UN, the malnutrition rate among children has jumped to 30% in Somalia's southern Juba region, a figure that is double the emergency threshold. Food prices have soared 80% in some regions.

The price increase in the south is attributable in part to traders who are hoarding the food to profit off the drought, said Grainne Moloney, the head of the UN's food security and nutrition analysis unit in Nairobi, Kenya.

Many drought-affected families are fleeing their homes in search of food. In the Galmudug region of central Somalia, officials said they had not seen such drought conditions since 1974.

Citing a recent survey conducted by his administration, Omar Mohamoud, a local government official, said the drought had killed 18 people and displaced thousands.

He said his community has seen about 70% of its sheep and goats, 50% of its cattle and 30% of its camels die in the last three years.

"We are appealing to the international community to respond to the crisis and provide the people with water, food, medicine and shelter," said Mr Mohamoud. "If the international community does not respond to the crisis urgently, a catastrophe of huge proportions is staring us right in the eyes."

British aid group Oxfam said Somalia's current drought could be as serious as one in the early 1990s, when thousands of people died.

"The situation is bad now, but with more months of no rainfall it could become an absolute catastrophe," said Alun McDonald, the group's spokesman in Nairobi. He noted that weather predictions suggested that the next rains "will also be poor or even fail".

The poor rains are even affecting marriages. In a makeshift camp in Garowe town, Nura Farah, a mother of seven children, said the lack of rains led to her divorce.

"When the drought hit us we quarrelled," Ms Farah said. "I told my husband, 'Look, you are a man. So go to town and look for ways to support your family'. But he rejected my request and divorced me and left."

The UN has released £2.8 million from its emergency fund to respond to the drought and is likely to release more in the coming weeks, said Mark Bowden, the world body's Somalia humanitarian co-ordinator. This figure is separate from the £329 million sought by the UN for this year to finance its aid projects in Somalia.

The drought's effects are worsened by the fact that aid agencies' work is restricted in many regions where Islamist insurgents are in control.

Peter Smerdon, the spokesman for the World Food Programme, called on all parties to the Somali conflict to allow his agency free access to help the needy population.

Ms Amos urged Somali politicians to inject "a sense of urgency to their discussions" to end decades of warfare.

Kiki Gbeho, the head of the UN's office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs in Somalia, warned that if spring rains expected in April failed, the country "is in a huge problem".

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on