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Oxfam: Somali Drought Could Be as Serious as 1992

  • Michael Onyiego

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

Below average rainfall in Somalia has pushed nearly 500,000 people to the brink of starvation. International aid-group Oxfam is warning that more will be affected unless immediate action is taken.

Somalia is in desperate need of aid, says British-based Oxfam International. Reports indicate decreased rainfall in the arid region, and the situation is critical in areas such as Gedo and Juba.

The aid group reports that 25 percent of people in the Gedo region and nearly 30 percent in the Juba region are malnourished due to crop failure and the death of livestock. The group also worries the death of livestock will promote raiding and violence as the crisis deepens.

According to Oxfam Humanitarian Programs representative Peter Kamalingin, the international community does not realize how serious the situation is becoming.

"The crisis is big, it is probably something that is similar to or worse than what we saw in 1992," added Kamalingin. "The rains for October to December period were low and there is the likelihood that the next rains, if they come, will be towards the end of March or April. So you have, actually, a period of six months low rain, and for Somalia that is serious."

Oxfam reports that some areas in central and southern Somalia have received less than 15 percent of their typical rainfall in recent months.

An estimated two million people are living off food aid in Somalia and as the drought continues that number is likely to rise. Speaking at the United Nations earlier this month, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed warned that 2.5 million people were on the verge of starvation unless given immediate support

There have been relatively few reported deaths as a result of the situation. But Oxfam's Kamalingin says the crisis is far from over.

"The worst of it is yet to come, and that is where the fear is," added Kamalingin. "We know that so far there have been deaths of livestock. We know that in some parts there have already been reports of limited deaths, not yet as bad. But if you consider that this is still January and the next rains are only expected in March, I think the next two months are going to be serious."

For those in the south, their only reprieve maybe the war-torn capital, Mogadishu. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees recently estimated as many as 12,000 people had recently arrived on the outskirts of the Somali capital in search of food and water.

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