Somaliland gets help from neighbors but drought response criticized as ‘haphazard’

Scene of parched grazing land in Somalia (Credit: Diane Abbott MP / Twitter)

Neighboring states Djibouti and Ethiopia have donated food supplies to stave off hunger in the autonomous northwestern Somaliland region, even as some observers worry that the drought response is ‘haphazard’ and too late.

The region’s Drought Response Committee announced Thursday that the government will contribute some $1 million for water trucking to drought-affected regions over the next two months.

The authorities also announced that the governments of Djibouti and Ethiopia have provided food assistance to benefit an estimated 20,500 households.

According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the government will distribute food to an estimated 41,000 drought-affected households in the coming weeks.

Fews-Net, a US-funded famine watchdog, currently rates most parts of Somaliland at ‘stressed’ or ‘crisis’ levels of food insecurity while one area is facing an ’emergency’, known as IPC Phase 4, one step short of famine.

By June the areas bordering Somaliland and Puntland could face deeper crisis and if there were no assistance in eastern Somaliland the situation would currently be worse, the famine watchdog says.

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Dead camels in Somaliland last year (Credit: Diane Abbott MP / Twitter)

Somalia’s crisis stems from poor cereal production coupled with deteriorating livestock productivity in pastoral areas. The upcoming ‘Gu’ season rains will be critical: Some areas could plunge into famine if the upcoming rains are very poor.

In order to prevent such a possibility Somaliland authorities are also turning to ally United Arab Emirates for help. A delegation led by Vice President Abdirahman Ismail Saylici is currently in the UAE and met with Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who is also head of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

The UAE is building a port and military base in Somaliland. The National newspaper in Hargeisa reported that the delegation in Abu Dhabi is seeking “urgent relief for drought-stricken areas and to finalize the details of the recently approved military base agreement.”

Some observers in Somaliland are concerned that the relief efforts are haphazard, inadequate or too late. Laura Hammond, a researcher at the African studies program SOAS, at the University of London, voiced concern after a visit this week.

“I’m just off the plane from Somaliland. Drought situation is very bad and response is haphazard,” she wrote Thursday on Twitter. “Things must improve to avert famine.”

Similarly, British MP Diane Abbott wrote, “This time last year I visited Somaliland and saw terrible drought conditions. So sad international community has not acted sooner.”

Meanwhile, a foreign reporter at a food distribution on Tuesday said that he saw people fighting each other with sticks over the little food that was distributed.

In spite of these challenges, conditions in Somaliland are more favorable than those in southern parts of Somalia. OCHA explains, “While the northern regions are expected to be slightly favorable, southern and central regions where a significant decline is expected may be only slightly better than 2011 [famine] levels. Urgent humanitarian assistance is needed to prevent the worst.”