Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Djibouti: the forgotten country in the Horn of Africa crisis

Mark Tran in the PovertyMatters blog at the Guardian (UK): Perhaps because of its small size, Djibouti has received scant attention in media coverage of the current crisis in the Horn of Africa. The former French colony, bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, has a population of only 820,000 people, but also faces significant problems. The fourth consecutive year of drought has led to massive loss of livestock, the destruction of crops and increased malnutrition.

There has been an increased migration of pastoralists to the capital, Djibouti, where the urban slum of Balbala has become a small city in its own right. The recurring droughts have affected 120,000 people, one in eight of the population. According to the UN, pastoralists have lost 70-80% of their livestock, while food prices have risen 50%. "Loss of income due to drought combined with the food price crisis has forced vulnerable households to allocate a larger share of their income to purchase food at the expense of health and education," says the UN.

The worsening security situation in south-central Somalia has compounded problems for the tiny state, host to the only US military base in Africa. There has been a large influx of refugees at the al Addeh refugee camp, whose number is estimated to be 15,000 and growing. This is causing further concern for food security and safe water supply.

"The country's needs are very urgent, although not on the same scale as those of its neighbours," said Katherine Roux, who was in Djibouti just over a week ago for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "Although it's a small country, the government struggles to reach some rural communities, which feel like they are at the end of the world."...

Sulphuric chimneys at Lac Abbe (Lake Abbe), Ethiopia/Djibouti, shot by Rolf Cosar, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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