DJIBOUTI: Widespread food gaps despite ongoing rains

Djibouti is one of the Horn of Africa countries that suffers recurrent drought (file photo)/IRIN

The northwest and southeast regions of Djibouti should receive good rains from July to September, but thousands of pastoralists will still need food assistance until the end of the year, warns an agency.

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The Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net) said the problems were due to several consecutive seasons of poor rainfall before the last two seasons of good rains. Other factors included above-average cereal prices, decreased demand for milk, and reduced remittances caused by the high cost of staple foods in urban areas.

Djibouti is one of the Horn of Africa countries that suffers recurrent drought. In June, the European Commission warned that drought had affected the coping capacity of vulnerable populations in the region and 12 million needed help.

“Drought is by far the main cause of natural disasters in the Greater Horn of Africa,” said EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who heads the EC humanitarian aid portfolio. She announced a €20 million (US$26 million) package on 23 June for six countries in the region. “Worryingly, the effect of climate change is felt more dramatically in this region.”

Climate concerns

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 40 percent of the population in the Horn of Africa is undernourished. Millions are food insecure, especially subsistence farmers, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, whose livelihoods largely depend on agriculture and animal production.

“Although populations in areas affected by cycles of drought and flooding have developed specific coping mechanisms, [they] are strained as the climate is becoming more unstable and shocks increasingly severe,” FAO said in its 2010 food security outlook.

“More than half of the populations in the region survive on less than US$1 per day,” it added. “With little or no saving and lacking the capacity or skills to diversify their sources of income, the poorest suffer the most from external shocks.

“The needs of populations already food insecure or the most vulnerable to food insecurity, namely pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and marginal farmers, as well as women and girls across categories, should be prioritized.”

Children hit hardest

Children, many of whom live in abject poverty, have been particularly hit. According to a recent report by the government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about two out of three children in Djibouti lack at least one basic right, including shelter, water and sanitation, information, nutrition, education and health. More than half lack proper housing.

“The intensity of the poverty situation in Djibouti tells us of the dangerous environment in which children live, one that exposes them to exploitation and abuse,” said Josefa Marrato, UNICEF representative in Djibouti.

Most of Djibouti’s 800,000 people live in urban areas. Conditions, FEWS Net said, were expected to improve in October, which would lead to an improvement in the health of animals. This would also be after September when schools re-open and petty trade plus casual labour employment opportunities pick up. But until then, 60,000 urban poor would require assistance.



[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]