SOMALIA: Humanitarian crisis “at new low”

BAIDOA, 12 August 2009 (IRIN) – Isack Abdinor Satar, 80, remembers a green and lush Baidoa, in south-western Somalia, with waterfalls in areas that are now the town’s suburbs.

Over the years, population pressure, drought and changing weather patterns have caused most of these waterfalls and springs to dry up, totally changing the town’s vegetation cover and ushering in perennial water shortages.

“In my youth, water was really available any time, anywhere in town,” Satar said. “Water flowed in different directions from various sources but all these have now dried up. I think drought has seriously affected all water sources in Bay region.”

Baidoa – seat of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government – is facing a severe water shortage after most of its water points and wells dried up. These include the Garbadda water source, in the centre of town.

“Each day, hundreds of families brought their animals [to Garbadda] for watering,” Hussein Sheikh Aden, a local resident, said. “Since last year, I have seen a very different situation. Due to lack of sufficient rainfall and increasingly high temperatures, the water point has dried up.”

Farmers and pastoralists had long relied on Garbadda for their water supply, but now they have to search long and hard for small amounts of water. “We tried to dig a well; we dug really deep but we failed to find water,” Aden said.

Halima Ibrahim Abdi, another resident, told IRIN: “I was born in Baidoa; I am now 60 years old. Baidoa used to be blessed with many water sources; we had water running under most bridges but, since last year, all this has changed.”


Photo: Mohamed Adawe Aden/IRIN
A dried-up water source in Isha, Baidoa

A local journalist, who requested anonymity, told IRIN on 10 August that a 200-litre barrel of water cost 100,000 Somali shillings (US$3.50), a steep amount for many residents.

Grain production has also declined significantly, raising the price of cereals. Moreover, job opportunities had declined, the journalist added, as fewer traders and farmers were taking on casual labourers.

Desperate IDPs

In Geneva, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the humanitarian crisis in Somalia had reached a new low.

“There are 3.2 million people in need of urgent assistance,” Elizabeth Byrs told UN radio. “Since May 2009, 200,000 people have fled insecurity in Mogadishu and there are a total of 3.9 million displaced – meaning one out of seven people is displaced in Somalia.”

In the port city of Kismayo, IDPs said lack of food, health facilities and sanitation were the most pressing issues for about 30,000 people in various camps around the city.

Mohamed Muse Ali, chairman of the IDPs in Kismayo, said no aid agency was operating in any of the camps.

IDP camps between Mogadishu and Afgoye have recorded an increase in the number of new arrivals fleeing violence between government troops and Islamist insurgents in the city, according to camp leaders.


Photo: Mohamed Adawe Aden/IRIN
A donkey cart near the Isha well in Baidoa. Carts like this have to wait until nighttime to ferry water as none is available during the day

In central Somalia and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, drought had displaced many pastoralist families who had also lost livestock. Many such families were facing hunger and disease outbreaks because of unsafe water.

For Somalis who have fled to neighbouring Kenya, congestion is the main problem in the three refugee camps in Dadaab.

Halima Aadan, a refugee in one of the camps, said congestion had contributed to a water shortage and high food prices, as well as difficulties accessing services such as health and sanitation.

“Refugees need more help because more are arriving daily; the new arrivals do not have shelter and have to live with relatives and other families; they should be allocated land on which to live,” Aadan said.

[original]

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