August 17, 2005

UN warns of growing human crisis in Somalia

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Almost a million people face a
shortage of food, shelter and other basics in Somalia, many
more than previously thought, after a poor harvest and bouts of
fighting in the lawless northeast African nation, the United
Nations said on Wednesday.

The shortage, and the difficulty of getting relief to
people driven from their homes by inter-clan fighting,
threatens the recovery of the nation of 10 million people,
which has been carved up into fiefdoms run by rival warlords
since 1991.

The world body said it has raised less than half of the
$162 million needed to tackle the problem, appealing for
another $92 million from international donors.

"Health, water and sanitation, protection, security and
education sectors remain underfunded," said the U.N. Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

About 919,000 Somalis need urgent assistance with food,
water, shelter or ways to make a living, said the United
Nations, up from an estimated 875,000 six months ago. The
figure includes 377,000 homeless people, forced to move to
avoid fighting.

Recent rains in north and central Somalia have alleviated
three years of drought, but recovery has been difficult for
farmers who lost property and livestock in the drought years.

In the south of the country, poor rains, a weak harvest and
further fighting have made the situation worse, with
one-quarter of children under 5 suffering acute malnutrition,
the world body said.

Somalia is also suffering the effects of the earthquake and
tsunami that devastated Indian Ocean coastlines on December 26,
killing as many as 300 people in the country and affecting some
18,000 households.

International assistance has been hampered by the lack of
security in the country and its waters. Last month, the United
Nations' World Food Program temporarily suspended aid shipments
to the country after an armed gang hijacked a ship carrying 850
tons of rice to the northern port of Bossaso.

On average, World Food Program provides 3,000 tons of aid a
month to 275,000 people in the Horn of Africa country.