Relief SCENE:Drought
UN Warns of Growing Somali Crisis
Poor Rains Could Worsen Drought, Raise Prices
The number of Somalis in need of humanitarian aid could rise beyond the already huge figure of 2.4 million (around one-third of the population), as rains that began late March are inadequate so far and point toward a poor harvest, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Two units of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization; the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and the Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM), said drought, ongoing conflict and spiraling food prices could prompt a greater crisis.

“The impact of the drought is affecting most parts of the country, leading to livestock deaths, and increasing food and water prices, which are making it increasingly difficult for poor families to feed themselves,” said Grainne Moloney, FSNAU’s Chief Technical Advisor.

The bodies said that cereal prices were 135 per cent higher in March 2011 than in March 2010 in certain parts of southern Somalia, where militant Islamist group al-Shabaab is battling to oust the weak government. Aid agencies have been banned in many al-Shabaab-controlled areas, exacerbating the crisis.

Inadequate rains are increasing livestock deaths, while the rising prices are making it difficult for families to make ends meet, according to the UN groups. If the rains do not improve, farmers will be unable to grow maize and sorghum, leading to higher inflation, they said.

“Levels of key rivers - Shabelle and Juba - that benefit irrigated agriculture are currently far below their historical normal levels, mainly due to failure of rains in the Ethiopian highlands which feed the rivers,” said Hussein Gadain, SWALIM’s Water Coordinator.

Moloney called for urgent action on a large scale to protect livelihoods and prevent deaths.