News / Africa

Djibouti Reeling from Several Years of Drought

FILE - A 2011 photo shows a Djiboutian woman with her donkeys looking for pastures in Garabtisan, a village in northern Djibouti.
FILE - A 2011 photo shows a Djiboutian woman with her donkeys looking for pastures in Garabtisan, a village in northern Djibouti.
Lisa Schlein
The United Nations has launched a two-year, multi-million-dollar appeal to help one-quarter-million people in the tiny East African country of Djibouti recover from several years of persistent, recurring drought. The U.N. seeks $74 million for 2014 to break out of the country’s ongoing cycle of crises.

Two weeks ago, two Somali suicide bombers blew themselves up along with a Turkish man in a café frequented by foreigners in Djibouti’s capital city. The international media devoted little coverage to the story, underlining how overlooked and neglected this tiny country in the Horn of Africa is by the rest of the world.  

This is a major problem for nearly one-quarter of Djibouti’s population of 850,000 - some 250,000 people who are seriously affected by more than four years of consecutive drought.

U.N. Resident Coordinator in Djibouti Robert Watkins is in Geneva to get international donors to pay attention to their plight and to support plans to help them emerge from this crisis.

He says malnutrition rates have increased to 18 percent, which exceeds the emergency threshold of 15 percent. In some areas, he says malnutrition is as high as 26 percent and the rate of chronic malnutrition is 30 percent.  In addition, he says 60 percent of the rural population is suffering from malaria and diarrheal diseases. 

“It is still a very traditional, nomadic population and the livestock has been very dramatically affected by the drought, with stocks continuing to go down," he said  "It is a drought deficit that has accumulated over the last four years and it is also resulting in a huge exodus of people living in rural areas to the capital city. The population has almost tripled in the capital city.  Now, 85 percent of the population is now living in the capital city.”  

Watkins says the city’s facilities are overwhelmed by this huge rural influx as well as by the large numbers of mainly Ethiopian migrants that transit through Djibouti on their way to Yemen. Most of the migrants use Yemen as a portal to reach other countries in the Middle East.

Last year, about 100,000 migrants arrived in Djibouti. Watkins says many of them are in desperate condition and in need of medical care. He says this puts great pressure on the country’s limited medical resources.  

Djibouti’s economy grew by five percent last year, but most of the population does not benefit from that growth. The country’s income mainly comes from renting out military bases to the United States and France and from large investments for expanding the ports and building a railroad to Ethiopia.

U.N. Coordinator Watkins tells VOA the two-year strategic plan goes beyond food and health care humanitarian projects. He says it deals with more developmental projects. The aim is to address the root causes so people will be better equipped to tackle the effects of drought.

“The biggest issue facing Djibouti today is the lack of water," he said. "People depend on water for their livelihoods, essentially for their livestock… So, we are doing a lot of projects and so there is less waste of water.”  

Nearly half of Djibouti’s population is unemployed.  Watkins says the strategic plan will try to address this problem in various ways. For one, the U.N. will try to reconstitute the livestock, which has been lost. But, equally important, he says is to find alternative ways for people to make a living. He says training people in the skills needed to work in the ports is one of the plans being developed.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs