Thirsty So­ma­lis trek 60 km for water; drought, con­flict bite

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A se­cond poor rainy sea­son in So­ma­lia has pushed live­stock herders in the drought-hit Punt­land re­gion to trek an av­er­age of 60 km to fetch drink­ing water, aid agen­cies said yes­ter­day, call­ing for rapid ac­tion to pre­vent re­newed famine. Five mil­lion So­ma­lis, or more than four out of ten peo­ple, do not have enough to eat be­cause of poor rains and fight­ing be­tween the Is­lamist mil­i­tant group Al Shabaab and So­ma­lia’s African Union-backed gov­ern­ment.

“So­ma­lia went through a very sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in 2011 where two failed rain sea­sons, over­lap­ping shocks, re­stricted ac­tion and a late re­sponse re­sulted in large-scale hu­man catas­tro­phe,” 38 aid groups, in­clud­ing Ox­fam, Ac­tion Aid and the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil, said in a state­ment. “We have been re­peat­edly promis­ing to not let this hap­pen again... What are we wait­ing for?” It called on hu­man­i­tar­i­ans and donors to re­vise ex­ist­ing projects to fo­cus on life-sav­ing sup­port for women, chil­dren and other com­mu­ni­ties hard-hit by the drought. “It is our re­spon­si­bil­ity as donors, as im­ple­menters, as na­tional and lo­cal author­i­ties, as So­mali busi­ness com­mu­nity... to see that this drought does not lead to a famine,” it said.

So­ma­lia’s 2011 famine, which killed 260,000 peo­ple, was caused by drought, con­flict and a ban on food aid in ter­ri­tory held by Al Shabaab. Char­i­ties have re­peat­edly warned about the threat of re­newed famine as the Horn of Africa nation con­tin­ues to be plagued by poor rains and con­flict, as well as short­ages of aid. Hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess to the Al Shabaab strongholds of Lower and Mid­dle Juba re­gions re­mains lim­ited, agen­cies said, with satel­lites mon­i­tor­ing rain­fall trends show­ing those ar­eas to be “the most wor­ry­ing in all of So­ma­lia”.

In­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion has shifted away from the drought to So­ma­lia’s elections, Kenya’s plan to close So­mali-dom­i­nated Dadaab refugee camp, con­flict and the with­drawal of peace­keep­ers from more than eight ar­eas, the agen­cies said. Thou­sands have been dis­placed in re­cent weeks by fight­ing be­tween the war­ring Gal­mudug and Punt­land semi-au­ton­o­mous re­gions and around the cen­tral town of Af­goye. Al Shabaab has seized con­trol of sev­eral towns in cen­tral So­ma­lia af­ter they were aban­doned by Ethiopian con­tin­gents in the Africa Union peace­keep­ing force. — Reuters

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