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Monitors say Drought Leading to Extreme Insecurity in Somalia

Somali women load water containers on camels near the Wanlaweyn district in the lower Shabelle region, 90 kms south of Mogadishu, 19 Jan 2011

Somali women load water containers on camels near the Wanlaweyn district in the lower Shabelle region, 90 kms south of Mogadishu, 19 Jan 2011

An ongoing drought is deepening in the war-torn nation of Somalia, leading aid groups to issue extreme food insecurity alerts and appeals. A Somali government official issued his own appeal in Kenya's capital Tuesday, saying that many people will stand to die if aid is not forthcoming.

Somalia's Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur says the current drought in Somalia is the worst humanitarian crisis the country has seen since the 1990s.

He explains that a combination of the failed October to December rains, large population movements due to war, and what he calls the un-cooperation of the al-Shabab militants have brought malnutrition in Southern Somalia and other areas to "crisis levels."

"Unless emergency aid gets to those in need soon, I fear that we will see a staggering death toll," he said.

According to the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network, the failure of several consecutive rainy seasons led to crop harvests in January and February being only 20 percent of average yields.

As of December, acute malnutrition in Southern Somalia stands at around 25 percent.

The early warning network forecast that the upcoming April to June rains are likely to be below average and distributed erratically, which will likely lead to extreme food insecurity, it says.

At the end of March, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that more than 52,000 people have been displaced in Somalia due to the drought since the beginning of December.

There have also been reports of livestock dying in the thousands.

Complicating the situation are continuing battles between forces loyal to the Transitional National Government and al-Shabab insurgents, which has prevented food and other aid from reaching people who need it the most.

In recent months there has been intense fighting in towns near the Kenyan border.

Somalia's Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur said government forces were victorious in those battles, and that they will protect humanitarian workers.

"We want the international organizations from Kenya side [to] go into Somalia through the border so that the towns which I just said were in control of the government, it would be easier for them to go through there so that the aid goes to the people," he said.

Al-Shabab is a militant group that has been linked to al-Qaida. Its aim is to overthrow Somalia's Transitional National Government, which came out of a protracted peace process years before, and replace it with an Islamic government.

Somalia has been without a functioning central government since 1991, following the ouster of former leader Siad Barre.