WFP has said that a critical shortage of funds has set in motion preparations to cease vital food aid rations to 53,000 people in Djibouti, where malnutrition rates among children
It’s vital that we get donations now
WFP Djibouti Country Director Benoit Thiry
under five are well over the international emergency threshold.
“Malnutrition among children younger than five is in fact a silent emergency in Djibouti – but we just don’t have the funds to continue providing food for the most vulnerable,” said WFP Djibouti Country Director Benoit Thiry.
Overall WFP needs US$6 million for operations until December 2007, and US$1 million immediately to avoid stopping distributions in May, just before the start of the dry season, when many families face the most severe food shortage, among them Somali refugees, and pastoralist families headed by one person.
Unless new contributions arrive, WFP will be forced to stop distributing food to more than 47,000 pastoralist drought victims in April, and from May, will no longer be able to feed some 6,000 refugees who rely entirely on food aid.
The halt will inevitably cause malnutrition levels in the camp to rise sharply.
Over the past five years, a series of droughts have hit Djibouti. The most severe was in early 2006, when rains failed completely, and pastoralist families lost many or all of their animals.
Alarming child malnutrition rates
“It’s vital that we get donations now,” Thiry added. “The longer it takes to receive donations, the longer it will take to get the feeding programmes back on track.”
Malnutrition rates among children younger than five are already alarming in Djibouti.
Preliminary results of a new survey show global acute malnutrition has risen to 20.4 percent -- above the emergency threshold of 15 percent -- compared to 17.9 percent in 2002. Severe acute malnutrition stood at 7.1 percent against 5.9 percent in 2002.
“Although these are preliminary findings and need to be validated, they provide a snapshot of the impact of the drought on household food security at the peak of the lean season,” Thiry said.
A report released this month by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network warned that thousands of households would run short of food in the coming months, with livestock in some inland areas already showing signs of stress.
An emergency food security assessment last September by WFP showed that continued assistance to drought victims in Djibouti is imperative. The series of recurring droughts have stretched to the limit the traditional survival strategies of many pastoralists.
Without assistance, the nomadic rural population will not have enough food to maintain an already critical nutritional situation.
The WFP assessment noted that assistance would progressively shift from free food distribution towards food for work programmes designed to help improve their food security.
Djibouti is classified as both a least developed country and a low-income, food-deficit country. Some 60 percent of the population is unemployed.
WFP in Djibouti
In 2006, WFP fed 70,000 people, including 10,000 school children, and 2,000 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS as well as people living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis patients. WFP-supported feeding centres also assisted pregnant and nursing mothers and children under five.