- The Sool Plateau at the border between northern Somalia and the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland is currently facing "the worst drought in decades," leaving thousands of locals in need, according to the UN food security agency, WFP. New aid is being channelled to the region.
The UN agency World Food Programme (WFP) today announced it was to expand its operations in Somalia's northern Sool Plateau, mostly placed within Somaliland, to respond to the worst drought to hit the region since 1981. WFP was to "begin distributing food to more than 60,000 vulnerable people facing severe shortages."
- The Sool Plateau has not experienced rain for a long time and reserves of groundwater are drying up, says the WFP Representative for Somalia (and Somaliland), Robert Hauser. "This year's Deyr rains appear once again to be failing and both the people and their livestock are in a dire situation," he added.
The UN agency is ready to take firm action to prevent a full-scale famine. "We need to intervene immediately to prevent widescale malnutrition and stave off a humanitarian disaster," says Mr Hauser.
The Sool Plateau, covering parts of Sool and Sanaag districts in Somaliland, as well as parts of Bari district in Puntland - an autonomous territory in the north of Somalia - have suffered three consecutive years of drought.
In July this year, WFP began distributing badly needed assistance to the region in collaboration with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). Supplementary rations were provided to the most vulnerable people at health centres in 12 villages.
WFP today reports it is now extending its supplementary food distributions to a further 26 villages. "Some 64,000 of the most disadvantaged people in Somaliland and Puntland will receive rations of maize and beans and vegetable oil," the agency said in a statement today.
- Pastoral families in rural Somalia depend largely on the sale of animals and milk to survive, WFP informs. "But wells and watering holes have dried up over the past three years and herds of livestock have been devastated," the agency adds.
Among the animals that have survived, many are now too thin to be sold at local markets and their reproductive rates have dropped. Consequently, milk production has plummeted, at a time when prices for rice, a staple food, have soared. In previous years, a 50 kilogram bag of rice cost one goat; this year it costs two or three goats.
According to WFP, "the impact of the drought on livestock has been so dramatic that even if the next rains in February, the Gu season, are good, milk production will remain low and many families will have no animals to sell."
- WFP urgently needs more funds if we're to continue our planned assistance over the next five months, says Mr Hauser. "We need some US $6.5 million to buy about 8,600 tonnes of food aid. If the resources were available, we would expand assistance beyond the 64,000 people to an additional 41,200 needy people in 18 villages."
The Sool plateau region is claimed by both Somaliland and Puntland and has seen intense fighting in the past few months. Most of the plateau is within the historic borders of British Somaliland, which provides the foundation for the present Somalilander government's claim of independence. Puntland however claims the entire plateau because the resident Somali clans are those otherwise living in Puntland, not Somaliland.
As the drought area straddles the borders between the two territories, UN agencies however have obtained access and security assurances from both authorities. The food distributed in the critical areas will be delivered from both sides.
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