The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today increased the number of people it aims to feed in Somalia this year to 1.2 million and appealed for urgent contributions of US$22.4 million to avoid a looming break in food supplies.
The rise to 1.2 million people, an increase of 200,000 over previous estimates, is the result of a dramatic deterioration in the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions of southern Somalia. Long viewed as the country's 'breadbasket', the area has recently suffered a variety of shocks - below normal Gu or long rains that ended in June, rising inflation, an influx of displaced people, nsecurity, trade disruptions and worsening health conditions.
"The Shabelle regions usually export food to other regions, but this year they cannot feed themselves so the most vulnerable require our help," said WFP Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens. "Also, families driven from Mogadishu by fighting need food for the coming months."
"Donors were extremely generous toward the people of Somalia in this tough year, and I appeal for that spirit to continue to help end the suffering of the growing number of weakest Somalis, mainly women and children. We cannot desert them in their time of need."
A recent nutrition survey confirmed acute malnutrition rates among children under five to be above the emergency threshold of 15 percent, with alarmingly high rates of severe acute malnutrition of more than 4 percent. It said food, clean water, health services, shelter and sanitation were immediately needed.
WFP Somalia requires $22.4 million to buy 17,000 metric tons of food, and to refund internal loans of 14,000 metric tons. Without new contributions, food will start running out in October.
"It takes up to four months for food assistance to reach people in Somalia," said Goossens. "So cash contributions are especially useful because we can then buy food regionally and help bridge the gaps." He warned that corn-soya blend would start running out in October and cereals in November.
WFP revised its requirements from its previous target of feeding one million people in the light of an assessment report in August by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Security Analysis Unit Somalia (FSAU). It found that a sudden humanitarian emergency had hit more than 600,000 people in Lower and Middle Shabelle and the capital Mogadishu.
FSAU found that the total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia had increased since March from 1 million to 1.5 million because of the worsening situation in the Shabelle regions and despite some improvement in drought- and flood-affected regions. FSAU forecast that Gu cereal production in southern Somalia would be the lowest since 1995.
The 1.2 million to be fed by WFP includes people who fled their homes in Mogadishu since April, recent returnees to Mogadishu and large section of the population in need of relief food assistance in the troubled south. Of the total, one million are in southern and central Somalia. Another
225,000 displaced people are being supplied with food assistance by the International Committee of the Red Cross and CARE. The remaining 75,000 are not in immediate need of food assistance.
The top 10 donors to WFP's two-year Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation in Somalia ending in July 2008 are: the United States (US$23 million), Canada (US$7.8 million), Netherlands (US$6.8 million), Saudi Arabia (US$3.3 million), Japan (US$3.2 million), multilateral funds (US$2.2 million), Germany (US$2 million), Finland (US$1.9 million), Ireland (US$1.7 million) and Switzerland (US$730,000).