The World Food Program says Djibouti is facing an alarming food and nutrition crisis. The WFP is urgently appealing for $19 million to feed 150,000 of the country's most vulnerable people through next year. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
Djibouti is a tiny country in the Horn of Africa. It is overshadowed by its much larger neighbors, Ethiopia and Sudan, and suffers from the lack of media attention and world recognition.
And, that, says the World Food Program's Director in Geneva, Daly Belgasmi, makes life exceedingly difficult for people in this extremely poor country.
"We are concerned in the World Food Program about hundreds of millions of people we are feeding....And, Djibouti because it is small and because of lack of media coverage on Djibouti...the country has been forgotten," Belgasmi said.
Djibouti ranks 148 on the United Nations Human Development Index. Nearly three quarters of the country's population of 632,000 live in poverty and about 45 percent live in extreme poverty or on less than one dollar a day.
The main source of income is from the port and from its use as an army base by the United States and France. The country cannot grow anything and must import all its food.
Belgasmi says the current food crisis is having a strong impact on the health and nutritional situation of the population. He says he has seen acute cases of malnutrition, of anemia and eye infections.
"No water, no shelter, no sanitation, no food and the people are moving because of the food crisis from one rural area to Djibouti surrounding in the suburban area...The situation is...alarming....the food security is getting worse during the last 12 months. The entire Djiboutian population has been strongly, strongly affected by the high cost of food commodity," he said.
Belgasmi says the unemployment rate is 60 percent. With the increased cost of living, largely due to soaring food prices, he says most of the population is unable to make ends meet.
He calls the situation devastating for Djibouti's poor, hungry, forgotten people.