Agencies call for urgent action to address Somalia drought

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A pastoralist in northern Somalia, a region hit hard by drought. He lost almost half of his sheep flock that originally numbered 70. Photo: UNICEF/Sebastian Rich

The world must act now to save lives in Somalia where a devastating drought is affecting more than six million people, or nearly half the population.

The warning comes from two UN agencies who say only a "massive and immediate scale-up of humanitarian assistance can help the country avoid falling into another catastrophe."

The drought was first reported in northern regions more than a year ago, but it has now spread throughout the country.

Dianne Penn reports.

The two agencies sounding the alarm are the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

They say the drought is threatening Somalia's fragile population, already battered by decades of conflict.

People are living "hand-to-mouth" and whole villages have lost their crops or seen their livestock die.

Christophe Boulierac is a UNICEF spokesperson in Geneva:

"By April there are expected to be 4.5 million people in need of water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, and four million people without access to health services due to the planned closure of health centres due to a funding shortfall. And the massive displacement caused by the drought threatens children's education, with 113,000 children at risk of dropping out of school and 30,000 already dropped out in the northern region of Puntland and Somaliland. And there is also an increased threat of gender-based violence and family separation."

The UN agencies are reinforcing their joint efforts to respond to the situation, for example by providing food and water vouchers to hundreds of thousands in affected areas.

However, they will require more than US$450 million in order to provide the urgent assistance required in the coming months.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'25"





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