DJIBOUTI - The United Nations World Food Programme warned today that 30,000 people in Djibouti face serious food shortages following three years of poor rains. The agency is appealing for US$2.5 million to assist the drought victims, including almost 6,000 malnourished children under the age of five, over the next six months.
"We have already used some of the resources available in the country to address this very grave situation," said Fatma Samoura, WFP Country Director for Djibouti. "We were able to provide enough food for 29,000 people for a month, but those affected will need further assistance or they will go hungry."
The crisis is affecting three of the six rural zones in the country. Poor rains for three successive years have caused livestock deaths and a significant decline in milk production. As a primarily pastoralist population, Djiboutians rely almost entirely on their animals to feed themselves.
There has been insufficient rainfall to replenish water catchments and to revive pasture land. The Government estimates that most people affected by the drought have already lost most of their livestock herds. The remaining animals are weak and more vulnerable to disease and parasites due to lack of water. Most pregnant small ruminants did not produce any young this season.
Without their herds, some 5,000 families are left with nothing to eat or trade. More and more people have been collecting firewood to sell or produce charcoal, with harmful effects on the environment. Such activities do not provide enough income to buy food, resulting in many families moving to built-up areas to find assistance, and thus joining the ranks of impoverished urban dwellers.
"Food prices continue to rise, and without meat or milk a lot of families are on the edge," said Samoura. "We can see the number of malnourished children is increasing. One of our key objectives is to assist these children and tackle malnutrition."
As part of the drought assistance, WFP is planning to launch supplementary feeding to target almost 6,000 malnourished children under the age of five.
In an effort to mobilize resources as quickly as possible and prevent people's nutritional situation from deteriorating, WFP is making a special appeal for cash donations to enable cereals to be purchased locally for immediate distribution.
WFP has already diverted funds destined to assist refugees, schoolchildren and people affected by HIV/AIDS - to provide emergency assistance to the drought victims. However, since there are only limited stocks of food available, donations are urgently required to continue providing support both to drought victims and impoverished groups.
As part of its regular activities in Djibouti, WFP provides assistance to a total of 53,000 people including refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia, school children, those affected by HIV/AIDS, pregnant and lactating mothers, malnourished children and TB patients.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency; each year, WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.
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