UN officials says the effects of the December tsunami on Somalia are being felt hundreds of kilometers inland. That’s because recent years of inland drought and floods had caused more people to rely on friends and relatives along the coast.
However, since the tsunami destroyed Somalia’s fishing fleet, and the next big fishing season isn’t until late this year, more emergency aid is needed over a wider area.
Simone Wolken is the UNHCR representative for Somalia. From Nairobi, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about relief efforts. She says, “The relief supplies, meaning immediate supplies like blankets and kitchen sets and sleeping mattresses, they are either already distributed or on the road rolling towards the beneficiaries as we speak. And so the immediate relief effort is well underway and the needs will hopefully be covered in the next couple of weeks. However, at the same time, what is now prevailing in the area is a severe livelihoods crisis because the persons on the coast and the families who depend on them further inland in Somalia have lost all their means of income not only for the immediate, but at least until the next fishing season in October/November of this year. So they have to bridge at least half the year where they have absolutely no possibilities at the moment to make a living and fend for their families.”
The UNHCR representative says it will take more than distributing items to solve this problem. UN officials are in the process, according to Ms. Wolken, of “designing labor intensive public works, shelter reconstruction infrastructure projects that would give the affected population and those further inland who are indirectly affected a way to earn a living until the next fishing season comes.”
An international assessment team has completed its tour of the Somali coast. It says 1500 houses were destroyed by the tsunami and will have to be rebuilt, while the entire northeast fishing village of Hafun will have to be relocated to safer, higher ground.