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Archive for August 26th, 2009

Senator Edward Kennedy dies at the age of 79.

Posted by African Press International on August 26, 2009

The man has championed democratic reforms in his country. Kennedy was expected to endorse Mrs Clinton during last years’ Presidential elections but he chose to support Barack Obama for presidency.

He was diagnosed with cancer last year and his health has been slowly deteroriating in the last few months.

He leaves a legacy that many will remember.

He is the brother of former US president John F Kennedy and the former attorney General Mr Robert Kennedy. Both men were assasisnated

Chief editor Korir/ API

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No more westernised hostagery: It is time to appreciate Myanmar and her people

Posted by African Press International on August 26, 2009

Myanmar is located in Southeast Asia between the Indian and Pacific Oceans , and is the second largest Peninsula in Southeast Asia .

She is 2000 kilometers in length, and 936 kilometers in width. Myanmar borders Bangladesh and India to the NW; China to the NE; Laos and Thailand on the East. And to its littoral SW the Andaman Sea, and Bay of Bengal.

The tallest mountain in Myanmar is named Khaka Bo Razi that sits at 5881 meters tall and is an extension of the Himalayan range.

The longest river in Myanmar is the famed Ayarwaddy which is the lifeblood of the land. The Ayarwaddy begins in the southern Himalayas, and is a life source by providing water for irrigation, commercial and personal transport, fishing, and cooking and bathing. The Ayarwaddy flows from the north and winds its way 2000 kilometers south before emptying into the Andaman Sea .

Burma received its current name of Myanmar in 1989 when the government changed her name. Myanmar means a reference to the country as a whole-viewed as a single entity. In 2006 the government moved Myanmar ‘s capital city north, from Rangoon to Nay Pyi Daw.

Myanmar ‘s population is estimated at about 54 million, of whom about 80 percent live in rural villages. Myanmar ‘s former capital city of Yangon has a population of 4.5 million.

The majority of the population is of ethnic Burmese; while 40% include other ethnic groups such as the Kachin, Karen, Chin, Shan, Kayah, Mon and Rakhine. These ethnic groups can be broken down into over 100 different groups or tribes.

87% of the populations are Buddhists. It has been said that Burma is the most profoundly Buddhist country in the world. Burmese practice Theravada Buddhism whose followers carries and passes on from generation to generation the most sacred of Buddha’s teachings.

There are also 4% of Christian, 4% Muslim, 4% Animist, and 1% Hindu. The Animists is comprised mostly of our hill tribes such as the Naga; who much like the United State ‘s Native Americans, worship and hold in high regard the land and her animals.

Burmese is the official language. Many different ethnic groups have their own dialect. English is generally widely understood.
The flag of Burma is red, with a blue on the upper left side-and inside the blue area are fourteen white stars. The stars symbolize the 7 states and 7 divisions of the country.

Burma generally has three seasons:

1) The “cold” season where temperatures average between 21-28 degrees Celsius (70-80 degrees Fahrenheit) November thru February.

2) The “hot” season where temperatures can top 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) from March thru early May .

3) The “wet” season (also known as the monsoon season) where daily deluges typically begin in the afternoons and evenings while waning in the mornings-during the wet season temperatures average 25-31 degrees Celsius (77-83 degrees Fahrenheit) from May thru October.

Burma’s geographic and cultural has contributed to a culinary tradition its own. The rivers and long coastlines of our country produce vast quantities of fish and seafood-a staple here. Our cuisine has been influenced by both India and China and a typical Burmese dish consists of fish or meat (pork, chicken or beef) curry served with rice; spicy vegetable salad; vegetable soup. This is often accompanied with a fish paste called nga pi, which is essential in Burmese kitchens.

The most popular dish in Burma is a breakfast dish called mohinga. Mohinga is a soup that is prepared with rice noodles, fish, coriander, spring onions and eggs.

Traditional Burmese cuisine consists of are fish or meat curry cooked in oil and spicy with vegetable salad, clear soup of vegetable or mixed vegetable sour soup, fish-paste is widely essential for Burmese kitchen.

Because of Burma’s temperate weather, fresh fruit and vegetable markets adorn any town or city where typically Burmese women sell their fresh produce at unheard of prices-and bargaining is accepted!

Exceptional international cuisine is available at most hotels and varies from Japanese to Italian.


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SOUTH AFRICA: Analysis: Land reform – same problem, different approach

Posted by African Press International on August 26, 2009

Photo: Madeleine Wackernagel/IRIN
A cape wine farm

JOHANNESBURG, – South African President Jacob Zuma’s dilemma over what to do about land and agrarian reform is no different than it was for his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, but the approach of the country’s fourth democratic president is.

Rectifying the racially skewed pattern of land ownership inherited from apartheid and the alleviation of rural poverty are among Zuma’s main priorities, according to analysts, and his first 100 days in office have reflected this.

The administration of land and agriculture has been the remit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs since 1996, but Zuma has divided these responsibilities between the Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The jury is still out as to whether this approach will be more effective, but the track record of the past 15 years, when agriculture and land reform were the responsibility of a single ministry, is less than inspiring.

Since the first democratic elections in 1994, the aim of redistributing 30 percent of white-owned farmland to landless blacks by 2014 has failed on two levels.

Only five percent of commercial land had been redistributed, and there has been an “extremely poor level of support [by government] for new, small and cash-strapped farmers who have been settled on this land”, Ruth Hall of the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) noted in a policy brief.

''The Department for Rural Development and Land Reform estimates that half of all existing [land redistribution] projects have ‘failed’; most independent research suggests that this is an optimistic reading of its track record''

Land reform failing

“The Department for Rural Development and Land Reform estimates that half of all existing [land redistribution] projects have ‘failed’; most independent research suggests that this is an optimistic reading of its track record,” Hall told IRIN.

Splitting land reform and agriculture into two portfolios appears at first glance illogical, as critics maintain they are implicitly linked, but Hall said in her brief that “land reform has been crippled” by combining them.

“The blame for the dismal track record of production on redistributed farms must fall largely on the national and provincial departments of agriculture, which have simply failed to come to the party,” she said.

“Despite the introduction of some agricultural support and funds for land reform beneficiaries in recent years, the agriculture departments have remained biased in favour of commercial farming, and unsupportive of smallholder farming and the production systems of the poor.”

Hall said the logic of separation acknowledged that there were two spheres of agriculture in South Africa – commercial and subsistence – and the agricultural department should “focus on commercial farming, rather than the new and poor farmers on redistributed land and in the former Bantustans, whose type and scale of farming and, therefore, needs might differ substantially.”

The Bantustans were a creation of apartheid in which the black majority were to live in reserves comprising 13 percent of South Africa, with the white minority and the government owning the remaining 87 percent. In 1994 the Bantustans – only recognized by the apartheid government as independent states – were reabsorbed into South Africa, but the underdevelopment of these regions has remained a stark legacy.

The ANC’s 2007 National Conference in Polokwane, capital of Limpopo Province – at which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party unseated former President Mbeki as leader in favour of Zuma, putting him on the path to becoming the country’s president – adopted a policy of moving away from large-scale land redistribution to the creation of black small-scale commercial farmers.

Hall told IRIN that although the strategic vision for the rural areas had yet to solidify, the thrust of rural poverty alleviation was expected to focus on the communal lands of the former Bantustans.

“If the new priority is to be placed on supporting agriculture and small farmers, then there will need to be substantial and sustained investment in the agricultural training colleges, as well as related professions,” she commented.

''Government knows large-scale expropriation isn’t feasible, even if they pass the Expropriation Bill later this year. They realize that if you expropriate you’ll end up in the courts, so it won’t be cheaper or faster anyway''

Willing seller, willing buyer

The redistribution of commercial farmland has been premised on the “willing seller, willing buyer” model, which has led to claims by government that farmers were inflating land prices, and counter claims by farm organizations that market-driven forces had increased land values, as has been the global trend.

Zuma told local media this week that there must be an alternative to the willing seller, willing buyer model to speed up land redistribution, but in reality there is little room to move.

Hall told IRIN, “There is scope for engagement with large landowners to partner with government to support land reform, and to share the cost and institutional burden. Some headway has been made in this regard, but has tended to privilege large commercial projects for black shareholders, rather than making land available for small farmers.”

There is a delicate balance between the large-scale commercial farmers, who provide South Africa with food security and surpluses for food insecure neighbouring states, such as Zimbabwe, and managing the uneven land ownership that continues to instil resentment among poor and middle-class blacks.

PLAAS director Ben Cousins, a contributor to a green paper on land reform expected to be published later this year, told the South African daily newspaper, Business Day, on 21 August: “Government knows large-scale expropriation isn’t feasible, even if they pass the Expropriation Bill later this year. They realize that if you expropriate you’ll end up in the courts, so it won’t be cheaper or faster anyway.”

Annelize Crosby, the legal and policy advisor to AgriSA, an umbrella organization for commercial farmers and agricultural businesses, told IRIN that high land prices were often a consequence of the government’s choice of land, which preferred citrus and wine farms with urban access and good road networks, rather than, say, farms in the karoo, South Africa’s arid central plateau.

Also, government’s purchase of going concerns, such as dairy farms, rather than vacant land came at a premium because of the existing infrastructure, she pointed out.

Crosby said AgriSA was “100 percent behind sustainable land reform”, and noted that in the relatively short time of Zuma’s presidency there had been some discernible differences in the approach of government departments towards commercial farmers.

“It’s not a night-and-day difference, but a shift in attitude towards [commercial] farmers,” Crosby said. The Zuma administration has extended “a hand of friendship and is serious about a partnership … Mbeki was not all bad, but the partnership never really got going.”


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ZIMBABWE: Burial societies a barometer of economic growth

Posted by African Press International on August 26, 2009

Photo: IRIN
Burial societies making a comeback

BULAWAYO, – On the last Sunday of every month, Zwodwa Mpika, 52, puts on her blue dress and matching brimless cap, the uniform of the burial society she belongs to, and sets off for the meeting.

She has rarely missed a gathering since her husband died in 2006, and her regular attendance has earned her the position of secretary of the Zibuthe Burial Society, located in Sizinda, a suburb of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city.

“I don’t want this association to collapse, which could easily happen if I do not attend and pay my dues, because without it my late husband’s funeral would have been little more than that of a pauper [burial],” she told IRIN.

Burial societies, to which most low-income families in urban centres belong as an alternative to buying conventional funeral insurance, are beginning to show signs of revival after tottering on the brink of collapse in the country’s decade-long recession.

“A conventional funeral assurance policy does not bring mourners to your funeral to mitigate grief and provide a resounding send-off,” Zibuthe Burial Society chairman Ntandazo Banda told IRIN.

Zimbabwe’s economic malaise has witnessed hyperinflation, shortages of basics foodstuffs that saw nearly 7 million people requiring food assistance in the first quarter of 2009, and an unemployment rate of more than 90 percent.

Burial societies charge monthly subscriptions of as little as US$5 per family and pay the funeral costs of their members, whether they were born in the city or are rural migrants; some even pay if the member comes from a neighbouring country like Zambia or Malawi. Local Zimbabwean traditions dictate that whenever possible the dead should be buried in their ancestral burial grounds at their rural home.

Most burial societies in Bulawayo draw their membership from working-class Zimbabweans, unlike Zibuthe, whose membership consists of a small community of pensioners and a sprinkling of young families of Malawian origin.

“We are trying hard to breathe life into our society but people have little or no disposable income,” Banda said. “We aim to preserve our unique burial traditions as Malawians, hence the small membership, but that does not bar other nationalities from joining us.”

HIV/AIDS and hyperinflation

Before Zimbabwe’s steep economic decline set in, most members could easily afford the monthly subscription of Z$20, but the society’s problems really began when the official annual inflation rate began spiralling towards 230 million percent. “We had to battle to keep the society afloat,” Banda said.

''Members are slowly coming forward to update their subscriptions, and that is a good sign''

The Kusile Burial Society in the neighbouring Bulawayo suburb of Tshabalala also experienced dwindling contributions and the society of 250 members almost collapsed, but “Members are slowly coming forward to update their subscriptions, and that is a good sign,” Admiral Ncube, treasurer of Kusile Burial Society, told IRIN.

Members defaulted on their dues because of financial hardships. “We barely had 30 fully subscribed members on our register at the end of last year [2008], with the rest unable to pay. Now, less than five are in arrears,” he said.

The attempts by the government to reign in rampant inflation also came at a cost. “Our other major setback [apart from HIV/AIDS] was the central bank’s decision to set an arbitrary exchange rate that almost wiped out the society’s savings,” Ncube said. In January 2009 Zimbabwe’s central bank set a rate of Z$3 trillion to US$1.

Hyperinflation was cured when the government ditched the local Zimbabwean dollar in favour of foreign currencies, which has seen the US dollar, South African rand and Botswana pula officially come into local use.

“We also lost a lot of our members, who died of HIV/AIDS-related diseases, but that does not put us off from fulfilling our obligation to a member, despite the pressure it exerts on our savings,” Ncube said.

''At the end of each year, municipal beer-gardens and council parks around the city used to host lively parties, thrown by different burial societies for their members …I foresee those times returning''

About 15 percent of sexually active Zimbabweans between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV positive, but burial societies, in contrast to the more conventional forms of insurance, do not require prospective members to undergo a medical examination.

Back to the good times

Ncube attributed the revival of burial societies to the rapidly increasing burial fees charged by the city’s cemeteries, and the high cost of transporting a body to rural areas.

Pumulani Meko, chairman of the Kusile Burial Society, put it down to the greater financial stability being enjoyed since the adoption of multiple currencies, and was generally more optimistic.

“At the end of each year, municipal beer-gardens and council parks around the city used to host lively parties, thrown by different burial societies for their members to coincide with the annual shutdown by many firms and factories,” Meko told IRIN. “I foresee those times returning.”


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GUINEA: “Yesterday was better than today”

Posted by African Press International on August 26, 2009

Photo: Sarah Simpson/IRIN
A market in the Guinean capital Conakry (file photo)

CONAKRY, – A young girl hangs on Lamine’s* shoulder, whispers to him and lingers until he gently tells her to go back to playing with her friends.

“You see that?” Lamine says, throwing up his hands. “My daughter’s hungry and I dont even have 1,000 Guinean francs (20 US cents) to give her.”

Seated next to him in a matching plastic chair near an intersection in Guineas capital Conakry is Georges*.

“What is particularly tough these days is providing enough food for the family,” Georges says. “The maximum anyone is earning per month is 600,000 Guinean francs [US$123]. Imagine that. You buy rice, you pay your rent – an average of 150,000 Gf – you pay water and electricity. Each day [you need] 15,000 or 20,000 Gf to have at least a bit to eat. If you want to eat meat make that 30,000.

“We are constantly in debt. All Guineans are worried about how to keep their households going.”

Yesterday was better than today, he says, with Madou* seated next to him finishing the sentence. Madou repeats: Every single day we say that yesterday was better than today.

Georges: The so-called salary we receive, even for civil servants, is solely to prevent us from dying. As heads of households we are perpetually humiliated. We cannot even meet our childrens most basic needs.”

They are among several men friends since school who meet nightly to chat about the news of the day, from a death or marriage in the family to the latest pronouncement from junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara. They do not want IRIN to disclose which neighbourhood they come from or their names. These days many Guineans are afraid to lament publicly the countrys current situation.

Camara took power in a coup after the death of Lansana Cont in December 2008.

Guineans living conditions have been dire for decades. Despite immense mineral resources, extreme poverty is widespread, and apart from a wealthy elite, few people have regular access to safe water and mains electricity. Guinea ranks 167 out of 179 countries in terms of basic human development indicators like health and literacy.

The World Bank in a March brief said the difficulties posed by Guinea’s “high-risk environment” have undermined mining revenues and the pace of foreign direct investments.


The men at the roadside in Conakry many of them civil servants say economic hardship was there during Conts regime, but added to it now are fear of the junta and an atmosphere of utter uncertainty and insecurity.

Photo: Nancy Palus/IRIN
Billboard of Guinea’s junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara in the capital Conakry

Next week if I get paid I will buy a [50-kilogram] sack of rice and condiments for my family because we do not know when things could blow up. But things are going to blow up it is obvious, Lamine says.

They say they fear soldiers who they say mistreat civilians with total impunity, but also an eruption of fighting within the military. It is the civilians who would suffer.

The International Crisis Group in a March report said Guinea was at risk of a counter-coup by disgruntled army elements.

Whenever you go out you are gripped by fear, Madou says.

They point to the crossroads next to where they sit, where they say policemen regularly direct traffic. Once they saw a soldier defy traffic restrictions and when the policeman intervened the soldier hit him with his gun. Then the soldier shot twice in the air, saying, The country is under orders.

Human Rights Watch said in July that the junta was undermining human rights by arbitrary arrests and detentions and a failure to punish criminal acts by the military.


Guineans initially had applauded the junta, which pushed aside would-be leaders close to former President Cont officials Guineans saw as a continuation of the past regime. Citizens say they saw Dadis, as he is called, as signifying a break with the past.

Eight months on: We are completely let down and frankly we are surprised at this let-down, says Lamine.

We do not know what has hit us. When he arrived Guineans were happy; we thought change had come. We had hope. But now people are betrayed.

Madou: In the first two months or so, our wives were glued to the TV every evening. You wanted to talk with your wife during the state TV news; she said `Not now Im watching the Dadis show. But three or four months later they stopped watching, completely disillusioned.

Disillusioned because they have seen none of the improvements they had hoped for, a member of a civil society organization told IRIN. At the beginning people wanted change at any price, no matter who was coming into power. Now they are seeing that simply change for changes sake was not the answer, he said, requesting anonymity because [those in power] are the ones with the arms and we dont know where this country is going.

''We have no arms and it is arms that talk here''

Might the people rise up?

No one thought that the strike of January 2007 could take place as it did, Madou says. But it took place. And there were who knows how many deaths, how many government buildings destroyed. Guinea of 1958 [independence], Guinea of 1984 [when Lansana Cont took power] and Guinea of 2009 are not the same Guinea. One day the people will revolt [if our situation does not improve]. One day the people will say enough is enough.

And the role of the international community?

The international community must put pressure on this regime to organize elections to bring a civilian to power,” says Lamine. “Only the international community can do so. We cannot. We have no arms, and it is arms that talk here.

Not everyone dismayed

Not everyone is dissatisfied with Camara. Some Guineans say only a soldier can make concrete steps towards cleaning up corruption and drug trafficking in the country, and that Camara should be left to continue what he has started.

One university student who requested anonymity echoed the views of some Guineans who said they were impressed with how Camara had dared to go after corrupt officials, arresting many prominent members of the military, including the former president’s son. We the youth we have hope today, he said, noting also that the junta has re-established youth centres throughout Conakry.

But the student said he was dismayed at Camara’s ambiguity about whether he will run for president in elections currently set for January 2010.

In recent weeks a group has formed MDDR, or Mouvement Dadis Doit Rester (Dadis Must Stay Movement). Camara came to power pledging he was not seeking to remain in office, but since then he has wavered on the question. In a 19 August exchange with journalists he said whether he would be a candidate is up to God.

*Not their real names


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AFRICA: Quelea – Africa’s most hated bird

Posted by African Press International on August 26, 2009

Photo: Biodiversity Explorer
Quelea quelea – the dreaded ‘featherd locust’

JOHANNESBURG, – For thousands of years, subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa have been at the mercy of the voracious Red-billed Quelea bird; sky-blackening flocks of the tiny feathered locust still decimate fields across the continent.

“Its main characteristic is that it occurs in extremely big numbers,” Clive Elliot told IRIN. This retired quelea expert spent the better part of his 31-year career at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) trying to help farmers and governments in Africa cope with the pest.

Nomadic super-colonies can grow to millions of birds, making quelea not only the most abundant bird in the world but also the most destructive.

Small bird, HUGE damage

Although they prefer the seeds of wild grasses to those of cultivated crops, their huge numbers make them a constant threat to fields of sorghum, wheat, barley, millet and rice.

The average quelea bird eats around 10 grams of grain per day – roughly half its body weight – so a flock of two million can devour as much as 20 tons of grain in a single day.

With an estimated adult breeding population of at least 1.5 billion, FAO estimates the agricultural losses attributable to the quelea in excess of US$50 million annually.


Quelea populations are notoriously robust; millions of birds are killed every year, but “reducing their numbers is highly problematic – they are highly mobile, have few natural predators and breed extremely fast. Man has been unable to make a serious impact despite the arsenal of weapons available,” Elliot said.

“A new population can swiftly move into an area you just killed out … [and] because they breed three times per year, with an average of three eggs per clutch, one pair of quelea birds can produce up to nine offspring annually.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Quelea quelea distribution

The birds are long-distance migrants with a range covering well over 10 million sq km of Africa’s semi-arid, bush, grassland and savannah regions. “It’s a pest in many different African countries, stretching from South Africa, north through countries like Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia, and all the way across the Sahel to Mauritania,” said Elliot.

Intensive farming and an increase in cereal crop production throughout the continent resulted in an explosion in their numbers; according to some estimates quelea populations have increased anywhere from 10 to 100 times since the 1970s.

Since the beginning of 2009 relief agencies in Africa have reported quelea bird swarms with a direct impact on food security in Kenya in January, in Zimbabwe in April, in Malawi and Tanzania in May, in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in June, and in Namibia and Tanzania in July.

It is difficult to invest in national eradication programmes because flocks have no respect for national boundaries, and “The destruction is patchy – at a national level a country loses only up to 5 percent [of crops], but for the individual farmer whose entire crop is wiped out that is little comfort,” Elliot commented.

Beyond control

The most common way of controlling the pest is by large-scale spraying of infested areas, “usually with a chemical called Fenthion – also known as quelea-tox – where they breed or roost” said Elliot.

“Another way is blowing them up – finding places where they concentrate and using fire bombs or dynamite.” In some areas the use of flamethrowers on roosts had also been tried, but with little success.

According to the Natural Resources Institute, a UK-based development group, some 170 control operations are executed in South Africa each year, killing 50 million birds on average.

But, according to the Encyclopaedia of Pest Management, “Despite the annual destruction of millions of quelea birds by use of pesticides, damage has continued to increase annually.” Besides being only marginally effective, Elliot noted that modern control methods also often had serious negative environmental consequences.

Photo: Wikimedia commons
Quelea flocks can consist of the thousands of individual birds

Most small-scale farmers have no access to aircraft, fuel, chemicals, dynamite or flamethrowers, and have instead relied on age-old traditional methods that are more effective, and certainly more environmentally friendly, but hugely time-consuming.

“The traditional way of control is mainly through bird-scaring. People go into the fields when their grain crop is vulnerable, using anything from catapults to banging and noisemaking – quite effective in the majority of cases,” Elliot noted.

“One person can protect a hectare but it’s very hard work,” because the crops are vulnerable from dawn until dusk and could need protection for a whole month, he said.

If you can’t beat them, eat them

More recent discussions about quelea bird pest control have turned towards predicting breeding based on weather patterns, deterrence mechanisms like netting, boosting natural predators, and even the development of a quelea virus.

Harvesting the birds as a natural resource might mean “two birds with one stone”, Elliot suggested. “We have been trying to develop systems to catch the birds and turn them into food for people – they would make a great source of protein.”


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Posted by African Press International on August 26, 2009

Photo: Yasmin Omar/IRIN
A young man injured in the fighting in Mogadishu recovers in hospital: Somalia is facing the worst humanitarian crisis of the past 18 years, compounded by conflict and drought – file photo

NAIROBI, – Somalia is facing the worst humanitarian crisis of the past 18 years, with an estimated 3.76 million people – half the population – needing aid as security deteriorates, officials say.

“The recent post-Gu [long rains] analysis by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit [FSNAU of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization] indicates that this is the worst humanitarian crisis in Somalia in the last 18 years, since the collapse of the previous government,” Graham Farmer, head of the FAO and acting UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told IRIN on 25 August.

He said the number now needing humanitarian aid had increased due to heightened conflict in some areas and drought in others.

“Thus, despite the extraordinary efforts of humanitarian workers, the crisis factors are intensifying,” Farmer said.

“I call upon all those who control territory in Somalia to recognize and respect humanitarian agencies and to support their unhindered access to populations in need.”

Cindy Holleman, chief technical adviser at FSNAU in Somalia, said the current situation “signals a serious deterioration in the emergency food security and nutrition situation from earlier this year.

“More worrying is that the escalating fighting and conflict [are] occurring in the same areas where we are now recording the greatest problems of food access and malnutrition,” she said. “This will not only place additional burdens on the people already in crisis, but will also make it difficult for humanitarian relief to reach the vulnerable populations most in need of humanitarian and life-saving interventions.”

On 24 August, FSNAU issued a statement saying most of the people in need, or 75 percent of the 3.76 million, were concentrated in south and central Somalia where the fighting is greatest and the areas most inaccessible to humanitarian operations.

Photo: Mohamed Amin Jibril/IRIN
In parts of the country, drought has led to poor pasture and weak livestock, in some cases livestock deaths – file photo

Death sentence

Abdullahi Shirwa, a civil society activist, told IRIN the worst-affected were displaced people and children.

He said the spread of fighting had led to many people being displaced from their homes in small towns in south and central Somalia.

“The displaced around Mogadishu get some help, however little, but those in the smaller towns away from Mogadishu have no access to help,” Shirwa said.

He called on humanitarian agencies “to be creative” and do all they can to reach these people. “Saying we cannot reach you now is a death sentence on those people [rural and small-town displaced].”

FSNAU said the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) had increased significantly since January, from one million to more than 1.42 million people now, a 40 percent increase in six months.

The agency said: “One in five children are acutely malnourished, while one in 20 are severely malnourished. Earlier this year the numbers were one in six children. These national rates of acute malnutrition are amongst the highest in the world.

''Saying we cannot reach you now is a death sentence on those people [rural and small-town displaced]''

An estimated 285,000 children under five are acutely malnourished, of whom 70,000 are severely malnourished and at an increased risk of death if they do not receive the appropriate specialist care.”

The food security and nutrition situation of the pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in the north is deteriorating after two to three consecutive seasons of below-normal rainfall, FSNAU warned.

FSNAU said humanitarian access to these regions was good, unlike south and central Somalia; “therefore it is critical that these areas receive appropriate levels of emergency livelihood support and nutrition response, to prevent a further deterioration into humanitarian emergency”.


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