With Djibouti currently facing worsening drought conditions following three consecutive failed rainy seasons, the United Nations today appealed for some $7.5 million to stave off the severe food crisis threatening the tiny Horn of Africa country.
Immediate needs include food aid for nearly 29,000 people and water for some 18,000 more, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Djibouti’s Government had earlier requested international assistance to help cope with the erratic rainfall patterns, which have sparked a raft of life-threatening predicaments, adversely affecting the replenishment of water catchments and the regeneration of pastures.
The delayed rains have forced abnormal pastoral migration patterns – of both people and livestock – and a further depletion of already exhausted pastures and grazing areas. Significant over-grazing and the depletion of water sources have also contributed to widespread livestock deaths and a serious decline in milk productivity. The remaining animals are in poor condition due mainly to opportunistic parasites and diseases, OCHA said.
To make matters worse, Djibouti’s coastal pastures and water sources have also been overburdened by pastoralists from the neighbouring, seriously drought-affected countries of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The rain has also been insufficient to replenish much-needed water sources throughout the country and it is below the threshold for pasture regeneration. All water catchments in the north-west and south-east are practically dry.
Families in Djibouti generally purchase the food they need with income from the livestock they sell; since many families have lost their entire herds, household incomes and access to food has been severely constrained. Moreover, because of the prolonged drought, malnutrition is a major concern, and OCHA estimated that supplementary feeding is needed for nearly 6,000 children.