Drought threatening Somali nomads, UN humanitarian office says

14 November 2003 –

A four-year drought is threatening the lives of Somali nomads, and those of the camel herds on which they depend for transportation and milk, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

"The current drought in Sool Plateau and Gebi Valley, Somalia, is the worst in living memory, according to a recent inter-agency assessment of 10 villages and other sites in the area," OCHA said. "For four years, rains have either partially or completely failed."

More than 90,000 out of the 650,000 people in the area are at risk of starvation, it said.

Herds of pack camels were experiencing mortality rates of over 80 per cent and the surviving camels were failing to reproduce. Milk production had plummeted and the drought-induced infertility meant that the herds would not recover, OCHA said.

A collapse of the pastoral economy and social support systems could cause rapid deterioration of the villagers' nutritional status, large-scale migration to towns and increased mortality and morbidity, it said.

OCHA was distributing immediate emergency aid and would create food-for-work projects to support and rebuild village livelihoods, beginning next February, it said.

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