|Refugee Nutrition Information System (RNIS), No. 27 - Report on the Nutrition Situation of Refugee and Displaced Populations (UNSSCN, 1999, 78 p.)|
Somalia continues to be divided in terms of political, military and economic developments, with some areas of the country experiencing impressive political development and economic recovery and other areas continuing to be plagued by many of the characteristics of crisis and complex emergencies. As a result, it is difficult to generalise about Somalia and an accurate analysis must account for three broad categories of political and economical realities in the country: zones in crisis, zones of recovery and zones in transition.
Much of southern and central Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu and Bay/Bakool areas, comprises 'zones of crisis'. There are high levels of insecurity, abuse of human rights, sporadic armed conflicts, and frequent population displacements. External aid to assist the victims is severely constrained by the insecurity in these areas. In contrast, in the recovery zones there is progress towards economic recovery and the area is usually safe and secure. These areas include most of Somaliland' (Northwest Somalia) and parts of the newly-established non-secessionist State of 'Puntland' (Northeast Somalia). The zones of transition, which include Middle and Lower Shabelle, Hiran, Middle Juba and parts of Gedo, are characterised by highly localised (clan based) political activity but relative security (UNICEF - 05/99).
A very positive development for Somali pastoralists over the reporting period has been the formal lifting of the livestock ban by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia on May 25th. This was imposed last year after an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever. The ban severely restricted the numbers of livestock exported to the Near East. The lifting of the ban has resulted in an immediate increase in the price of livestock. Large movements of livestock to the sea ports are reported (WFP - 31/05/99).
The last RNIS presented an alarming picture of the nutritional situation for much of southern Somalia, including Bay and Bakool, as well as areas in Gedo and Hiran. In response to an appeal launched in November 1998, seeds were distributed to 75,000 families in advance of the Gu season. Food aid was also provided and alleviated the acute food security situation. However, the Gu rains have been erratic, with poor rainfall in many areas and long dry spells. Mid-June normally coincides with full water catchments and the peak of pasture and crop growth, but recent reports from FSAU contradict these normal patterns. The projected estimate of cereal crops is 11% below the post-war average. In addition, the erratic rainfall is adversely affecting the growth of wild foods and condition of pasture. River levels are likely to remain low as drought is affecting southern Ethiopia (the watershed of both the Juba and Shabelle rivers) and hence the availability of water for irrigation will remain poor (FSAU - 22/04/99, 15/06/99; IRIN - 30/04/99).
Zones of crisis - Bay and Bakool
Population movements are reported throughout the regions. WFP reports that at the same time as IDPs flee from Kismayo to Baidoa and Burhakaba, other IDPs have returned to their farms in these areas (WFP - 29/06/99, 02/07/99). Numbers affected will be confirmed by the next FSAU food needs assessment in August.
The most recent reports for Bay and Bakool show that prices for staple food are high and employment opportunities are limited. Food aid deliveries in central and Southern Somalia (Bay, Bakool, Gedo and Lower Shabelle regions) are likely to be reduced in the coming months because of increased insecurity in these areas (FSAU - 16/06/99; WFP - 18/06/99). Also, WFP expect increased difficulties of unloading of vessels while the monsoon winds cause rough seas. Shortfalls of food are likely to occur in these regions. Note that high levels of wasting were recorded earlier in the year in Bay and Bakool.
Luuq IDP camp, Gedo
An ACF/FSAU rapid assessment in Luuq IDP camp in Gedo region in mid-March found that the nutritional and public health situation had deteriorated to appalling levels since the last assessment in December 1998 (see Annex and FSAU - 29/12/98). The numbers of IDPs entering the camp had grown steadily since December and the average inflow was recorded at 12-13 families a day (compared to 5 families in December). By late March, it was estimated that the camp population was approximately 7,200 (this figure does not include those integrated into host community). Many of the IDPs are from the Bakool, Gedo and Bay regions. The main reason for displacement was drought. The IDPs reported that much of their livestock and crops had died and some households had also had their assets looted.
The mortality rate was extremely high in children under five at 10.6/10,000/day. This was approximately double that found in December. A rapid nutritional assessment showed that the situation was very serious. Using MUAC, a prevalence of 15.2% severe acute malnutrition was recorded (MUAC<110mm and/or oedema) and acute malnutrition was recorded at 57.2% (MUAC<125mm and/or oedema). This has increased from 32% in December. No major differences were observed between the old and new IDPs.
The households interviewed had no stock of food or seeds. The food was obtained by income earned from the sale of firewood, begging or from other households. Only a small number of the IDPs had found employment; they were paid 1-2kg of potatoes per day. Most were consuming only one meal a day - generally sorghum porridge purchased from the market and, in some households, potatoes. Some of the households were observed eating animal skins.
General food distributions were found to be inadequate in terms of the amounts distributed and the low coverage of distribution; many (52%) of the households had not received a food distribution at all. Additional health risk factors included the lack of sanitation facilities in the camp, limited supplies of unsafe river water (3.21itres/per person/day), poor housing and low measles vaccination coverage (8.2% by verification of cards).
Note the conditions in Luuq camp are localised and are not representative of the overall IDP or resident population. Other IDP populations may have access to more assistance or a wider range of coping strategies. Preliminary indications from a study in Bardera IDP sites suggest that the situation is far better in areas other than Luuq (WFP - 29/06/99).
Authorities in Puntland have declared a state of emergency as prolonged drought in parts of Mudug, Nugal and Sool Regions, has led to severe water shortages and deteriorating pasture conditions. Large numbers of livestock have perished and herd sizes of sheep and goats are 25-50% below normal. Milk production is 20% below normal. The remaining livestock are the only source of livelihood for many nomads and the local economy is dependent on the trade of the animals. Nomadic communities have started to move in large numbers towards urban centres, which has led to overcrowding and a general deterioration in environmental health, in particular supplies of adequate amounts of clean water. WFP is providing assistance to approximately 100,000 highly vulnerable nomadic people (FEWS - 29/04/99, FSAU - 22/04/99, Oxfam - 27/04/99, UNICEF - 05/99, WFP - 30/04/99).
Somaliland - impact of drought on livestock
Livestock is the major source of livelihood in the rural areas of Somaliland; agriculture is considered as a compliment to livestock production. Insufficient rains in the first part of 1999 and, probably, overstocking (due to the livestock ban imposed by Saudia Arabia) has caused a grazing deficit and weak animals. There has also been a reduction in the amount of land cultivated in this area because of the short and irregular rainfall and insufficient income from livestock resulting in limited access to agricultural inputs. Food stocks are nearly exhausted in most households and a rise in the local cereal prices and the fall in the agro-pastoralists' purchasing power exacerbate food insecurity. This group of people are thus in need of assistance as their coping mechanisms are being stretched. On a more positive note, the lifting of the livestock ban has resulted in the improvement of employment opportunities (FSAU - 27/05/99, 16/06/99).
Overall, in Somalia, despite the current poor nutritional situation and predicted harvest shortfalls, improvements in the nutritional situation are expected as a result of increased access to food post-harvest, and the lower incidence of malnutrition related illnesses, particularly diarrhoea. However, these improvements are likely to be short-lived as the effects of harvest shortfalls are felt, and the rains resume in September/October. The most recent WFP estimates suggest that there are some 425,000 vulnerable people at risk in southern Somalia -category IIb (WFP - 29/06/99) and at least one million people who are food insecure (WFP - 02/07/99). The IDPs in Luuq are have a high prevalence of wasting (category I) and the other IDPs (an estimated 26,5000) in the south are probably at high risk (category IIb). In Puntland there are some 100,000 people at high risk (category IIa). An unknown number of people are at risk in Somaliland.
Priorities and recommendations:
· The most recent FSAU reports suggest that there will be food shortages in households in Hiran, Bakool, Gedo, Bay and Shabelle regions and Somaliland before the next harvest (FSAU -16/06/99).
Recommendations from the ACF/FSAU study in Luuq IDP camp include:
· Assist families that are willing to return to their places of origin (54%). Give them a returnee package of seeds and tools and a seed protection food ration. Distribute non-food items in order to improve housing, allow more efficient water collection and better hygiene.
· Distribute a general food ration in the camps. Improve water supply and sanitation within the camps.
· Put a measles immunisation programme in place.
Recommendations for action in Somaliland, from FSAU, to prevent another poor cropping season in August include:
· Improve access to seed and tillage.
· Provide food for work for the poorest households until October when the next cropping season's harvest is due.