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DJIBOUTI: Drought appeal for 120,000 vulnerable pastoralists

IRIN News

Friday, November 12, 2010

NAIROBI (IRIN) - A "forgotten emergency" has left tens of thousands of pastoralists in Djibouti needing food and nutrition assistance as well as longer-term coping mechanisms, according to the UN.

The tiny Horn of Africa state is the subject of a US$38.9 million appeal for food aid ($16.2 million), agriculture and livestock ($6.5 million), health and nutrition ($7.4 million), water and sanitation ($2.4 million), and emergency preparedness and sanitation ($6.4 million).

Pastoralists and other rural dwellers have been particularly affected by successive years of drought since 2005, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Water reserves have been depleted, there has been a massive loss of livestock, and as a direct result many people are facing the destruction of their livelihoods and lost sources of income," the agency said. "Increasing numbers of pastoralists have had to give up their traditional activities and

are settling in urban areas."

Djibouti's food security situation is likely to further deteriorate due to the effects of La Niña events, expected to result in drier-than-normal conditions during the October-December rainy season, according to OCHA.

The country is also affected by the worsening violence and insecurity in neighbouring Somalia, OCHA said, with Djibouti hosting a refugee population of 14,500.

Launching the appeal in Geneva earlier this month, Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said, "Due to high food prices and reduced purchasing power, too many people are unable to feed their families.

"While this appeal will help meet immediate humanitarian needs, like food and nutrition, it is important that we also address the root causes of recurrent food crises and improve the country's capacity to respond to these emergencies," she said.

Djibouti is considered a least developed low-income food deficit country and was ranked 147th out of 169 countries in the 2010 UN Human Development Index [ http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/ ].

In an effort to mitigate the effects of drought, Djibouti abolished tax on food and some agricultural inputs and promoted the cultivation of unused arable land, according to Mohamed Siad Doualeh, the country's ambassador to the UN.

Source: IRIN

DJIBOUTI: Widespread food gaps despite ongoing rains

NAIROBI, 13 August 2010 (IRIN) - The northwest and southeast regions of Djibouti should receive good rains from July to September, but thousands of pastoralists will still need food assistance until the end of the year, warns an agency.

The Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net) said the problems were due to several consecutive seasons of poor rainfall before the last two seasons of good rains. Other factors included above-average cereal prices, decreased demand for milk, and reduced remittances caused by the high cost of staple foods in urban areas.

Djibouti is one of the Horn of Africa countries that suffers recurrent drought. In June, the European Commission warned that drought had affected the coping capacity of vulnerable populations in the region and 12 million needed help.

"Drought is by far the main cause of natural disasters in the Greater Horn of Africa," said EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who heads the EC humanitarian aid portfolio. She announced a €20 million (US$26 million) package on 23 June for six countries in the region. "Worryingly, the effect of climate change is felt more dramatically in this region."

Climate concerns

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 40 percent of the population in the Horn of Africa is undernourished. Millions are food insecure, especially subsistence farmers, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, whose livelihoods largely depend on agriculture and animal production.

"Although populations in areas affected by cycles of drought and flooding have developed specific coping mechanisms, [they] are strained as the climate is becoming more unstable and shocks increasingly severe," FAO said in its 2010 food security outlook.

"More than half of the populations in the region survive on less than US$1 per day," it added. "With little or no saving and lacking the capacity or skills to diversify their sources of income, the poorest suffer the most from external shocks.

"The needs of populations already food insecure or the most vulnerable to food insecurity, namely pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and marginal farmers, as well as women and girls across categories, should be prioritized."

Children hit hardest

Children, many of whom live in abject poverty, have been particularly hit. According to a recent report by the government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about two out of three children in Djibouti lack at least one basic right, including shelter, water and sanitation, information, nutrition, education and health. More than half lack proper housing.

"The intensity of the poverty situation in Djibouti tells us of the dangerous environment in which children live, one that exposes them to exploitation and abuse," said Josefa Marrato, UNICEF representative in Djibouti.

Most of Djibouti's 800,000 people live in urban areas. Conditions, FEWS Net said, were expected to improve in October, which would lead to an improvement in the health of animals. This would also be after September when schools re-open and petty trade plus casual labour employment opportunities pick up. But until then, 60,000 urban poor would require assistance.

SOURCE : IRIN

DJIBOUTI : Running low on water, pasture and food

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

(IRIN) - The main rainy season in Djibouti has been poor, prompting fears that some pastoralist households could face serious food shortages in the coming months. "Consecutive seasons of poor rainfall, a possible failure of the current Heys/Dada rains, high staple food prices and a significant reduction in emergency food aid distribution are pushing households towards extreme food insecurity," the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net) said.

The Heys/Dada rains last from October to February and are the main source of water, especially in the coastal grazing belt.

"In most areas, no significant rains were observed in November, normally the period of peak rainfall, suggesting that the season may be a complete failure," FEWS Net said in an 11 January alert. "Earlier rains in 2009 were also below normal."

The situation comes at a time when the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has reduced general emergency food aid distributions in most pastoral areas by nearly 74 percent, compared with last year.

The reduction followed a May 2009 assessment that had shown a significant improvement in water and pasture conditions, especially in the coastal belt. Food and energy prices were also stabilizing.

"WFP is following the current situation in Djibouti closely together with the government and other partners and is concerned by the poor performance of the rains in some parts of the country," Marcus Prior, WFP spokesman in Nairobi, said.

"Up to October 2009, WFP was providing general food rations to 80,000 vulnerable people in Djibouti," Prior told IRIN on 13 January. Following the assessment, that number was reduced to 25,000.

The poor rains have already led to livestock deaths, FEWS Net said, particularly in the northwest and southeast pastoral zones. Some households are failing to meet basic food and water needs.

The rural population in need of emergency assistance, both food and non-food, is expected to increase in the coming months to 80,000 to 100,000 persons," it noted. "Current emergency food aid distribution is inadequate and should expand to meet the expected caseload."

In central pastoral zones, people had already started selling their remaining livestock, taking children out of school, reducing dietary intake, and migrating to cities in search of casual labour.

Prior said WFP, with regional authorities, was planning to roll out food-for-work activities for the moderately food insecure. These would include building or rehabilitating access roads, and agricultural and water supply infrastructure.

"It is expected that up to 21,500 additional people will benefit from these projects," he added. "WFP's nutrition programme in Djibouti, targeting over 3,200 of the most vulnerable mothers and their children, continues."

Two-thirds of Djibouti's estimated 800,000 people live below the poverty line, 10 percent in extreme poverty, according to Djibouti health ministry statistics. At least 85 percent of the population lives in urban areas, but 60 percent are unemployed.

Djibouti, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, is also fundamentally dependant on imported cereals. Food prices are approximately 30 percent above the market average.

According to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, an estimated 30,000 children were acutely malnourished last year. In an update for December 2009-February 2010, UNICEF said global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence among children under five was at a critical level of 28.8 percent nationally.

IRIN