The 2009 UNDP Human Development Index ranked Djibouti among the ‘low human development’ countries of the world. The majority of the population lives in urban areas (70 percent) and particularly in the city of Djibouti (58 percent, of whom 60 percent are unemployed).
Djibouti has an unfavorable climate unsuited to crop production. Its population of about 819,000 depends entirely on imported food. WFP food assistance is designed to reach about 140,000 of the most vulnerable people at times of greatest need. This includes those affected by drought, the urban poor struggling with high food prices, refugees from Somalia, migrants from Ethiopia, and rural schoolchildren.
Since 2003, successive droughts have reduced pasture and provoked increased migration in search of water and pasture. Pastoralists have been forced to cut the amount of food they eat, as well as the quality of the food they consume.
High food prices have had a particularly dramatic effect in urban areas. A nutrition survey in mid-2009 carried out in the Balbala area of Djibouti town showed alarming acute malnutrition rates of nearly 21 percent. The situation is also particularly serious in the north-west, where acute malnutrition rates are close to 25 percent.
The food security situation in Djibouti at the start of 2010 was deteriorating once more as a result of recurrent drought, livestock losses, livestock‐to‐cereal terms of trade unfavorable to pastoralists and high food prices. A new assessment scheduled for April will allow WFP to target its response to those most in need, and the number of people receiving assistance is expected to increase.
In response to the long-term challenge of achieving food security for all in Djibouti, where possible WFP is shifting from general distributions to food-for-work activities, designed to tackle the impact of climate change and help people become more self-sufficient in both rural and urban settings.
WFP also provides monthly food rations to 11,000 Somali refugees in Al Addeh camp, and has a contingency plan in place in the event that numbers crossing into Djibouti increase during 2010.
In addition, 15,000 children in rural parts of Djibouti receive daily meals at school as well as take-home rations for girls to encourage them to attend regularly.
Djibouti is also a WFP logistics hub for the handling of food aid destined for Ethiopia and Somalia. The WFP Country Office in Djibouti plays an important support role to humanitarian operations in the two neighbouring countries. Given the current drought and high food price crisis in the Horn of Africa, WFP Djibouti expects to handle further large food shipments.
WFP and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) monitor food prices in urban and rural markets on a weekly basis.