16 February 2006

Somalia: Hundreds of Thousands Affected By Water Shortages - Oxfam

Nairobi — Hundreds of thousands of people in drought-hit areas of Somalia are facing dehydration, with some having to drink their own urine as chronic water shortages persist, aid agency Oxfam International said on Thursday.

"The situation is as bad as I can remember. Some people are dying and children are drinking their own urine because there is simply no water for them to drink," Oxfam quoted Abdullahi Maalim Hussein, an elder who accompanied the organisation on its recent mission to the affected areas, as saying.

Douglas Keatinge, Oxfam Great Britain regional media officer for the Horn, East and Central Africa, said the agency had carried out an assessment in January in Gedo and Lower Juba regions, both in southern Somalia, where deaths from dehydration had been reported.

The assessment found that pastoral families had to survive on only one-twentieth of the daily water supply recommended by minimum humanitarian standards.

"Many families are surviving on just a 20-litre jerry can of water for three days," Oxfam said in a statement on Thursday. "This is equivalent to 830 ml, or three glasses, of water per person per day for drinking, cooking and washing."

Due to the water shortage, some families had to walk as many as 70 km in temperatures of up to 40 degrees centigrade, Oxfam said.

"The situation will get worse unless swift action is taken," said Mohamed Elmi, Oxfam regional programme manager. "People cannot survive on just three glasses of water a day when the temperature is hitting 40 degrees."

"Without water, children will die and the livestock on which pastoralists depend will end up as rotting corpses around dry wells," Oxfam warned.

Oxfam expects to start emergency water operations next week for up to 200,000 vulnerable people and their animals, targeting areas along the Kenya/southern Somalia border, the lower parts of Gedo, and the Lower Juba regions.

"We are also carrying out further assessments in the worst-affected areas, so that we can scale up the intervention in appropriate areas," Keatinge said.

According to the United Nations, 1.7 million people in Somalia are in need of urgent relief aid because of the drought, described as the worst in a decade. Some areas have recorded their driest months since 1961.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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