Starving poor of Somalia now suffering thirst

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The Independent Online

The impoverished people of Somalia are being forced to surviv e on three containers of water a day for drinking, cooking and washing, Oxfam has said.

Increasingly large numbers of people are dying from dehydration on 40-mile treks to fetch water in scorching temperatures of up to 40C.

"The situation will get worse unless swift action is taken," said Mohamed Elmi, Oxfam's regional programme manager. Somalia is one of the poorest African nations and campaigners are deeply concerned that the drought in the south of the country, which has already struck neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Tanzania and Burundi, will hit the nation, disrupted by wars, particularly hard.

The price of containers used to transport water has rocketed to more than a day's wages for most Somalis, said Brendan Cox, an Oxfam spokesman . A water canister that used to cost at least 1p now costs 70p in a region where residents live on pennies a day.

The latest UN report on Somalia said 1.7 million people - 710,000 of them experiencing acute food shortages - needed food assistance of some kind in addition to the 410,000 refugees who depend on food aid.