The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has started to distribute food with the aim of assisting some 1.1 million drought- and war-affected people across the hardest-hit areas of southern and central Somalia.
The first round of distributions, currently taking place in the Gedo region, is providing 72,000 people with enough beans, oil and rice to cover their needs for one month. Several more rounds are planned to take place until December.
While food distributions are needed to relieve immediate suffering, the ICRC also aims over the medium term to give the population the means to sustain their own livelihoods. It is therefore providing seed and fertilizer for 240,000 farmers ahead of the planting season. Maize, sorghum, cowpea and sesame should be ready to be harvested by the beginning of 2012. This ongoing operation is being conducted by the ICRC with the support of volunteers from the Somali Red Crescent Society.
“Forecasts for the deyr rainy season are optimistic. Although the season accounts for only 30 per cent of annual food production, if the harvest goes well it will help Somalis recover from the devastating effects of the drought,” said Ottavio Sardu, an ICRC agronomist. “Somali farmers know how to produce their own food – all we have to do is provide them with the means. Supporting sustainable livelihood projects is the best way to fight the food insecurity in Somalia.”
A severe drought that began in October 2010 has aggravated the already dire humanitarian situation in Somalia resulting from more than 20 years of armed conflict. Food insecurity has been severe for months. In addition to the distributions, the ICRC provides support for 39 clinics, 27 outpatient therapeutic feeding centres and 12 mobile health clinics in southern and central Somalia, all of which are run by the Somali Red Crescent Society. More than 10,000 children are currently receiving treatment in the ICRC-supported facilities.