Monday, March 7, 2011

Somali drought adds to region’s despair

Olivia Ward in the Toronto Star: From outer space a large swath of East Africa looks like a dusty diamond. From the ground the dust is real, and it’s combined with arid scrub, sand and dried up rivulets. “The first thing that struck me was how stark the landscape was,” says Anne-Marie Connor, Africa program manager for World Vision Canada. “There’s no greenery, livestock is dying, and people have to go farther to search for water.”

Drought has bitten deeply into one of the African continent’s most troubled regions. On Wednesday the UN’s expert on human rights in Somalia, Shamsul Bari, said that he feared a “natural and human disaster” as thousands of people are driven from parched pastoral land toward dangerous conflict areas, or into makeshift camps in Puntland.

He said that the international response to the crisis was “slow,” and urged countries to help meet needs for clean drinking water, food and health care. “Puntland is hosting about 125,000 displaced people from outside the region,” said Connor, in a phone interview from the autonomous Somali province. “Some have fled fighting in the south, others are here because of the drought.”

World Vision, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, is helping to provide sanitation for swelling numbers of arrivals, who lack the most basic amenities of latrines and running water. It is one of a number of aid groups working in the region….

Somalia seen from space

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