Hunger looms in Somalia following poor rains

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- The UN World Food Programme (WFP) Friday warned that tens of thousands of Somalis could face acute hunger as poor rains in south-central regions threaten the country's main grain harvest.
A release from the body said recent assessments carried out by WFP in the Bay and Bakool regions of Somalia show that much of the vital sorghum crop has already wilted or largely failed, adding that the situation was no better in neighbouring Gedo and Hiran.
"Although we are not yet in a position to quantify the scale of crop failure at this stage," said WFP country representative in Somalia Kevin Farrell, "preliminary indications are worrying, with perhaps only 30-40 percent of the normal Gu production expected.
" Farrell said "this is an early warning of a very serious food situation," adding "the first signs of hardship have already appeared, with some poorer families barely able to afford one meal per day and others migrating to urban centres in search of work.
" The Gu rains, which account for some 75 percent of the country's annual crop production, normally run from early April through to mid June.
According to reports from affected areas, even if rains improve in the next few weeks, it is already too late for most crops to recover.
The WFP release early estimates indicate crop production figures for the Gu harvest this year would be well below the post-war average - perhaps as much as 40,000 tonnes.
Field staff, it said, estimate that armyworms and crickets have damaged a large proportion of the crop which withstood the drought.
At this time of year, WFP noted, agriculture is the main source of employment in rural parts of Somalia but, with farming activities severely reduced by the poor rains, work opportunities were scarce, leaving families with few alternative income sources to make ends meet.
The release said populations in the north of Somalia were also facing increased food insecurity, both as a result of poor rains - particularly in the north-east - and a livestock import ban imposed by the Gulf States in September 2000.
The ban is badly hurting pastoralists as well as urban populations heavily reliant on the livestock trade.

01 june 2001 19:10:00

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