DJIBOUTI: Efforts to contain soaring food prices and drought

Thursday, April 17, 2008
Djibouti is to implement emergency measures to ensure food security amid soaring prices and persistent drought that have particularly hurt the poor across the Horn of Africa country, the government said.

The strategies include continued price controls, diversification of food supply sources and increased financing for the agricultural sector. Water infrastructure will be developed along with strategies to address the impact of climate change.

Food aid will also be provided for populations affected by the long drought sweeping across the country, while a system to promote access to technical, scientific tools and resources will be set up to enhance agricultural productivity.

The measures were announced as an early warning agency warned that the prolonged dry season and failed rains from October to February had caused a scarcity of pasture and water for the country's pastoralists.

At the same time, record-high staple food prices had exacerbated food insecurity, leaving many of the pastoralists in need of emergency food aid, the Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS Net) said in a March update.

In urban areas, where the majority of the population lives, poor households could only buy 68 percent of their daily minimum food requirements due to high inflation rates.

The government, in a statement following a cabinet meeting chaired by President Ismail Omar Guelleh on 15 April, said it would act through an inter-ministerial committee.

The situation, it added, had deteriorated, particularly for the most vulnerable in the rural and peri-urban areas.

According to FEWS Net, food security in Djibouti will, from April to June, be affected by the March to May rains, which are likely to be below normal due to prevailing climatic conditions.

"The rainfall will not enable sufficient regeneration of pasture and browse, and many pastoralists will become highly to extremely food insecure," the agency warned in an update. "The prices of staple foods will also likely increase, causing pastoral terms of trade to deteriorate further."

In February, UN World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Peter Smerdon said the government had asked UN agencies to help tackle the impact of the drought and high malnutrition rates in the country.

"WFP was asked to distribute food in rural areas for six months from February for a total of 52,000 vulnerable people," Smerdon told IRIN. "WFP needs US$3 million to meet this request."

Djibouti, a poor desert country, is classified by WFP as both a least developed and a low-income, food-deficit country. Eighty-five percent of the total population of about 600,000 is urban, with two-thirds living in the capital, Djibouti.

Source: IRIN