8 August 2008

Djibouti: UN Appeals for Assistance for Drought-Stricken Country

The United Nations and Djibouti's Government have launched an appeal for nearly $32 million to help the Horn of Africa nation, which is reeling from years of drought and insufficient rain, along with surging fuel and food prices.

The funds would help nearly 150,000 people, including refugees and asylum seekers, in danger of going hungry for six months.

A joint Government-UN evaluation found that in rural Djibouti, there has been a catastrophic loss of livestock and soaring malnutrition, with over half the population living in extreme poverty. The urban poor have been hit just as hard by the steep increases in food and fuel prices, with many families reduced to one or two meals a day.

Deteriorating food security in Somalia has also driven many across the border into Djibouti.

The new call will also help children under the age of five at risk of malnutrition by doubling the number of children in remote areas reached to 25,000. It will also provide full food rations for 80,000 rural people and food or cash vouchers for 55,000 in urban and semi-urban regions.

The funds will improve water and sanitation facilities and protect over 400,000 animals from disease.

In a related development, the UN hopes that a $30 million boost will help to ease the suffering of millions of people in the one dozen countries most devastated by the global food crisis.

The funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will be put towards humanitarian programmes in Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Lesotho, Madagascar, Niger, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

"Millions of people in these 12 countries are on the margins of survival because of the combination of drought, crop failure, and rising fuel and food prices," said Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes.

This latest round of funding comes from the $100 million that the CERF sets aside to take immediate life-saving action - such as providing food aid and agricultural support - in priority countries.

The Fund is the UN's central donation facility, collecting contributions from Member States and other donors year round so that funds are on hand for immediate humanitarian relief in emergencies.

"The CERF has been an integral part of the emergency response to the global food crisis," said Mr. Holmes, who also serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

Since it was launched in 2006, it has made nearly $900 million available for rapid disaster relief, helping UN agencies, funds and programmes to save tens of thousands of lives in 62 countries struggling with disasters, armed conflicts or both.

Nearly $60 million has already been earmarked for food projects under the CERF's regular rapid response window.

The Fund has some $12 million left to react to new emergencies until the end of this year, but the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns that demands caused by the food crisis are continuing to rise. Unless the CERF is replenished, many of them will have to be addressed through bilateral funding from donors. So far, over $430 million of the Fund's $450 million target has been pledged by donors.

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