HC Deb 19 January 2004 vol 416 cc949-50W
John Barrett

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the status of the drought affecting the north-western regions of Somalia; and what assessment he has made of the impact which the drought is having on levels of malnutrition in the region. [147826]

Hilary Benn

A succession of failed rains over the past four years has resulted in large-scale food insecurity among pastoral populations in the Sool and Sanaag regions of northern Somalia. The UN Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) surveyed the Sool plateau between 27 November and 5 December 2003, with preliminary results showing a global acute malnutrition rate of 18.9 per cent. and a severe acute malnutrition rate of 3.8 per cent. amongst children. Malnutrition rates among adult women (15 to 49 years) were 17.3 per cent., suggesting all household members are affected by the current drought. There is evidence of deterioration in the nutritional status of the population, confirmed by reports of collapsing social support system and a worsening drought after the failure of Deyr rains. Malnutrition rates appeared significantly higher among children from pastoral households than those in major villages. With no rains expected before April, further losses to livestock and other assets are expected.

Unfortunately the growing tension between Somaliland and Puntland, who both claim the drought-affected areas as their territory, could jeopardise assistance if the situation escalates into violent conflict.