HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19990706]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs [19990706]

HORN OF AFRICA: IRIN News Briefs, 6 July

SOMALIA: Warning of looming "tragedy"

In response to a "resurgent drought and food emergency" in southern Somalia, the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) on Tuesday launched a donor alert for over US $17 million. "As indicators point towards yet another poor harvest, humanitarian agencies are gearing up once again to act in a timely manner to avert a major tragedy," the SACB, comprising donors, UN agencies and NGOs, said in a statement received by IRIN. It said the situation "looks increasingly precarious" because of erratic rainfall, continuing conflict, the disruption of trade routes and the cumulative effect of consecutive poor harvests.

An estimated one million people are at risk, including 730,000 in Bay, Bakool and Gedo. Other affected areas include Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba and Hiran. The alert seeks to raise funds for emergency food, health, water, relief and mine awareness activities from July to December and falls within the framework of the 1999 UN Joint Appeal for Somalia. "The dangerous combination of war, drought and an economy in shambles means that food aid is only one component of an overall humanitarian response," the statement said. "The overall situation today is considerably worse than earlier in the year," it added.

Kenya closes border with Somalia

The Kenyan government on Monday announced the closure of its border with neighbouring Somalia "with immediate effect". Local media quoted the northeastern provincial commissioner, Maurice Makhanu, as saying the areas of Garissa district, lower Juba inside Somalia and the lower parts of Wajir district between Dif and Liboi will remain closed until "further notice". All entry points stretching over 300 km between Wajir and Lamu are affected. Makhanu said the measure was aimed at curbing the influx of refugees and to prevent defeated Somali militiamen fleeing into Kenya. The directive also bars movement of people, vehicles and goods.

However, UNHCR appealed to the government of Kenya on Friday to allow asylum seekers from Somalia to be screened at the camps. "We haven't heard of any people being blocked," a UNHCR official in Nairobi told IRIN on Tuesday. The Kenyan government took the decision to close the border following last week's infiltration of the Amuma military camp by Somali militia who disarmed Kenyan soldiers and stole their guns, trucks and equipment. Some of the stolen goods were returned on Friday.

ETHIOPIA: Rising relief needs

Additional food aid pledges are urgently required if a major humanitarian crisis is to be avoided in drought-affected areas of Ethiopia, a UN report said. The report by the UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia, received by IRIN, said UN and government assessment missions in June to most severely-affected areas had found that an "alarming situation" was developing, with increasing malnutrition rates and population migrations observed. Areas visited included North and South Wello, Wag Hamra, South Tigray, East Harerge, Welayita and Konso Special Wereda.

The assessment teams had identified many signs of food "stress," including the sale of assets, the absence of food stocks at the household level, increasingly poor terms of trade between livestock and grain and decreases in school attendance, the report said. In South Wello, the condition of livestock was very poor, with animal carcasses "lining the road," while in Wag Hamara, "whole households" had begun to move in search of food. The Ethiopian government's recent contribution of 20,000 mt of relief grain, combined with new donor pledges announced by Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, will provide sufficient food to cover July's requirements, "but the overall pledge situation remains alarmingly low," the report said.

ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: Libyan mediation reportedly accepted

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have agreed to a Libyan proposal for resolving their border conflict, the Libyan Jana news agency reported on Friday. The peace proposal was in conformity with the OAU Framework Agreement, Jana said, adding that "intensive diplomatic contacts" were underway to organise a meeting of all the parties under OAU auspices. An envoy of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had travelled to Ethiopia and Eritrea last week to determine both countries' views on the proposal, Jana said.


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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