Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- The UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Somalia, Maxwell Gaylard and officials of aid agencies have expressed great concern about the worsening drought in northern Somalia.
"Although there are about two weeks left of the rainy season in the areas, all the signs indicate that the communities of large parts of northern Somalia are experiencing yet another season of inadequate rainfall," said Gaylard, who warned that "this situation could develop into full-blown disaster in the next couple of months.
" According to the UN agency, four years of below-normal rainfall have decimated the herds of pastoralists living in the regions of Sool, Sanaag, Togdheer, Nugaal, Mudug and Bari in Somaliland and Puntland, and some areas of Galgaduud in the centre of the country, which is also affected by inter-clan conflict.
Aid agencies estimate that only 20 percent of the area has had enough rain to allow pasture to grow, and with more livestock concentrating in the area.
The drought has led to massive livestock deaths - in some areas up to 80 percent of herds - further impoverishing an estimated 200,000 pastoralists, the agencies said, adding that the loss of the animals also means that women and children are forced to carry water for distances of up to 10 to 20 kilometres.
They said the situation of already destitute pastoralists continues to deteriorate, with many moving to towns where they are placing their already poor relatives and clan members under further stress.
Others remain massed in camps or villages, along roads and at water points.
UN agencies and NGOs responded to the crisis in late 2003 and early 2004 with short-term relief operations including food distributions, provision of water, mobile health services, veterinary support for livestock, and cash grants.
But without substantial rains in the area in the next two weeks, the extent and intensity of the drought could expand needs beyond the current relief operations.
"Donors and the authorities in the regions concerned have responded to the crisis, enabling the aid agencies to mount a well-co-ordinated response, however, the failure of another rainy season will require a much more concerted effort at providing relief if we are to avoid unnecessary suffering and deaths of the most vulnerable," Gaylard warned.