Djibouti's reconstruction has been slow and more needs to be done to improve the country's precarious social situation, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the UN Economic and Social Council. The report, received by IRIN on Wednesday, said the population's purchasing power has been declining, external assistance to the country has become scarce, a large refugee population has placed enormous strain on meagre
resources, and declining economic indicators have been exacerbated by the unstable socio-political situation in neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia. "Poor health conditions, the low level of educational facilities and a workforce with limited qualifications also continue to hamper social progress," the report said. "Social infrastructures, such as hospitals,
dispensaries, schools and water points, have to be reconstructed so that the displaced population can be resettled," it added.
UN agencies continued to implement rehabilitation programmes in
conflict-affected regions, but many of the pledges made by some donors at a round table in May 1997 had "yet to materialise", the report said. There were an estimated 100,000-150,000 refugees and displaced persons in the country, and most of the 18,000 Djiboutians who fled civil war, which first broke out in 1991, have returned. Recurring drought, epidemics and other emergency situations combined with the effects of the conflict have "considerably increased Djibouti's need for emergency and humanitarian assistance", the report said. At least US $100 million are estimated to be needed to mitigate the impact of the war.