The authorities in Somalia's self-declared republic of Somaliland have urged the international community to come to its aid to avert severe food shortages and hunger due to a prolonged drought in the region.
Ahmed Yusuf Yasin, vice-president and chairman of the National Disaster Committee (NERAD), told a news conference in Hargeisa that Somaliland was experiencing the worst drought in decades.
"All six regions of Somaliland are affected by the drought; and 40 percent of the [3.5 million] population or at least 1,400,000 people are affected," Yasin said.
"We’ve called this drought 'Sima' [equalizer in Somali] because all regions are affected."
Yasin said the region required urgent help in water trucking, the rehabilitation of boreholes, and the de-silting of `berkads’ (water points) and dams. It also needed medicines and herds to be re-stocked.
"Nutritional support for the weak and sick will be also necessary," he added.
NERAD officials said the `Deyr’ (short) and `Gu’ (long) rains in Somaliland had been below normal since 2007 and this year's `Gu’ rains were especially poor.
Yasin said the cumulative effects of drought had resulted in a decline in reproduction rates and re-stocking for all species. With poor livestock body conditions, the number of saleable animals in local markets had declined, he added.
The drought had also affected a significant number of urban households whose income and food sources are linked to the livestock trade.
|A village abandoned following severe drought - file photo|
Yasin warned of a serious humanitarian catastrophe if no steps are taken to avert the shortages.
According to local aid workers, those at most risk include the elderly and the disabled.
"When the drought affected all regions, the problems for the vulnerable increased, particularly disabled people who were used to being looked after in urban centres," Roda Ahmed Yasin, a sanitation officer with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), told IRIN.
Ahmed Yasin said he had come across a number of families with disabled people who were finding it particularly difficult to cope: “Before the drought they could provide for them but now everybody has his own problems, compounded by pressure for help from relatives in the countryside," he said.