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Food, water shortages to persist due to poor rainfall - FEWS Net

Food and water shortages in Eritrea will persist following lower than expected rainfall around the country this season, a famine warning agency said in a report released on Thursday.

"Because rainfall has been poor, the actual harvest yield is expected to be less than 109,000 mt," the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) said. "Pasture and grazing conditions are poor in most parts of the country, which, coupled with the low anticipated harvest, will seriously affect the overall food security situation in the coming year."

The 109,000 mt represents 58 percent of the average cereal production for the "kremti" season and less than 20 percent of the country's total annual cereals requirement of around 600,000 mt, FEWS Net. It quoted a preliminary assessment conducted by the Eritrean agriculture ministry at the end of the August.

At the end of September, the food stock balance at the Eritrea Relief and Rehabilitation Commission warehouse was 70,729 mt. This stock and the anticipated arrivals of around 72,933 mt, is enough to feed 1.9 million people at normal ration sizes until the end of December, FEWS Net said.

It noted that the kremti rains, which normally occur between June and September, had come to an end, having performed below the long-term average in most parts of the country.

The rains were particularly poor in most parts of Maekel, Gash Barka, Anseba and eastern parts of Debub zones. Southern and southeastern portions of Debub zone received relatively better rainfall amounts, though they were still slightly below the long-term average.

The below average rain, coupled with the consecutive droughts in the past few years, had severely affected potable water supply for domestic consumption. The shortage existed throughout the country, but was most severe in urban and semi-urban areas.

Located in the Sahelian zone of Africa, Eritrea is not well endowed with rich water resources and the scarcity of water for human consumption and agricultural activities is often a problem.

Under normal circumstances, about half of the population in Eritrea has access to protected water systems. But the consecutive poor rainfall performance in the past few years has led to one of the worst droughts to hit Eritrea, affecting about 60-70 percent of the country, according to FEWS Net.

Water levels in wells and boreholes are at all time lows. An inventory of water points carried out by Water Resources Department of the Ministry of Land, Water and Environment revealed that 11 communities of 85,000 people face acute water shortages without the possibility of improving their watering system. Meanwhile, 65,000 people have a very remote chance of developing new water sources.

Except for Asmara, where storage dams and ponds are constructed and utilized properly, the main drinking water supply sources in Eritrea are ground water. In rural areas, there are around 1,420 wells, of which 55 percent are boreholes. There are 448 open-hand-dug wells in the country, providing water for some 323,068 people in 269 villages.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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