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Somalia: Conflict & uneven rainfall prolong food insecurity

Somalia: conflict and uneven rainfall prolong food insecurity

Geneva/Nairobi, 29 June 2012 – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is concerned that large sections of the Somali population remain highly vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition one year after the peak of the drought crisis. The situation is set to persist owing to the combined effects of the drought and ongoing conflict.

"Thanks to humanitarian efforts and a very good last harvest, the overall nutritional situation has improved since last year. However, many Somalis still struggle to meet their basic needs, and malnutrition rates remain alarmingly high," said Olivier Humbert-Droz, the deputy head of the ICRC's Somalia delegation. "On top of this, continuing armed confrontations force people to flee their homes or disrupt food production and other economic activities."

"The April-to-June rainfall was below average in some areas and poorly distributed over time, thus jeopardizing the capacity of many households that grow crops or raise livestock to meet their needs," explained Mr Humbert-Droz. "This capacity has been further undermined by widespread armed clashes and poor security conditions."

Since the beginning of the 2011 drought and nutritional crisis, the ICRC, with frequent support from the Somali Red Crescent Society, has helped approximately two million people meet their essential food needs through large-scale relief efforts in south-central Somalia and Puntland. The recently completed distribution for 764,000 drought-stricken farmers, livestock herders and people displaced by fighting was designed to provide a two-month supply of basic food items, such as rice, beans, vegetable oil and corn soya blend, to help them bridge the "hunger gap" period leading up to the July harvest. Those receiving the food were able to maintain assets vital to their livelihoods that they might otherwise have had to sell at deflated prices simply to have something to eat.

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"The ICRC has been responding to both emergency and long-term needs in Somalia with projects designed to restore or improve livelihoods and economic security for a population weakened by years of conflict and recurrent natural calamities," said Mohamed Sheikh-Ali, who coordinates the ICRC's economic security programmes in the country. "Our aim is to improve self-sufficiency. Barring calamities, those receiving aid are set to have enough food to cover their basic household needs for six months at least."

While food distributions are temporarily required to relieve immediate suffering, the ICRC supports communities in their efforts to strengthen and sustain their own means of support. During the past year, more than 640,000 people have benefited from action taken by the ICRC to boost food production for people who grow crops or rear livestock, for instance through distributions of agricultural inputs and upgrades to irrigation channels. In addition, almost 200,000 people have benefited from improved access to water – another scarce resource in Somalia – during the same period.

Over the past two decades, the ICRC has been responding to emergency needs of the Somali population as well as helping communities to overcome the cumulative effects of continuing misfortune and retain their ability to fend for themselves.

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