Early June 2009 desert locust swarms
moved across northern Somalia. Can this country, that already has fallen into parts (see map further below), survive more plagues in continuation of civil war, famine, soil erosion, human health problems due to use of contaminated water, overgrazing and further desertification?
Food security in eastern and western regions of the self-declared republic of Somaliland (see map further below) is under threat following an invasion of desert locusts, which have destroyed an estimated 3,000 ha of farmland.
Somalia is geographically divided into the northern desert and the southern coastal plains and plateaus. Somalia became independent in 1960. Somalia is one of the poorest, most violent, least stable countries anywhere on Earth. It suffers from severe drought and its people face hunger and violence on a daily basis. It has been tormented by crude civil war most of the time since 1986. Only 1.64% of Somalia’s 637,657 km2
is arable land with permanent crops on 0.04% of Somalia. Most of the country receives less than 500 mm of rain annually, and a large area encompassing the northeast and much of northern Somalia receives as little as 50 to 150 mm/yr (deserts are usually defined as areas with an average annual precipitation of less than 250 mm/yr). One of the country’s biggest problem is the heavy loss of livestock suffered by the pastoralist/nomadic communities in the worst drought in 30 years.
Somali has a 3,025 km long coastline. In 2005 ca. 700 foreign fishing trawlers were illegally active in Somalian waters. For years other countries have dumped nuclear and toxic waste off the coast of Somalia. After the tsunami in 2005 some of this waste washed ashore with disastrous results for the coastal population like skin diseases and mouth bleedings.
So what can you do in Somalia for a living. Crops gone, livestock gone, fish gone, and no social security. One solution is taking aid helpers as hostages to get ransom money. There is however bigger money in piracy. And the pirates are local heroes. They are the revengers of those foreigners that destroyed the fishing industry and they provide money. Eyl (in Puntland, another more or less independent region, see map below) is the location of most of Somalia's casualties from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. It has about 3 million inhabitants and has become something like the capital of the Somalian pirates. As the so-called pirate capital it is where the high seas hijackers often steer their captured vessels. Special restaurants in the town cater for the captive crews. With their expensive tastes in fancy houses, cars and women, the pirates have brought boom times to the local economy.
Puntland is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis following poor rains that have created severe water and food shortages. Puntland has experienced a third consecutive seasonal rainfall failure. Most of the population relies on livestock, but poor rainfall has left them struggling to make ends meet. In some places 30 to 40 percent of the livestock has died, and what little livestock is left is so weak it cannot even be sold, and much less used for milk and meat.
Seen the humanitarian situation it does not come as a surprise that many people try to flee from the country. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) the number of those who crossed to Yemen in 2008 was 50,000, of whom more than 1,000 people died during the journey. Apart from piracy there is therefore also money to earn from smuggling fugitives out of the country. Smugglers are reportedly charging each migrant US$100 for the trip to Yemen, but sometimes the smugglers do not even take them anywhere near Yemen. They take them on their boat, wander around the Somali coast for a night and dump them near a Somali town telling them it is Yemen.
This post is mainly based on my earlier posts on the humanitarian situation in Somalia and Puntland. I thought it might fit in the “Carnival of the Arid”
, showing what may happen in an arid area, when human conflicts worsen a situation already harsh due to climate and not least climate change. Without improving the humanitarian situation for all Somalis, the current problems will not be solved. This is an extremely difficult task for the international community.
PS of 3 July 2009:
Somewhere in the middle of the Greenland Sea I have succeded in connecting to the Internet. The temperatures here are a bit lower than in Somalia, and I am looking at gulls! So if you want to read more about dry areas go to the "Carnival of the Arid" now up at: http://faultline.org/index.php/site/item/carnival_of_the_arid_5/
In the meantime I'll have a closer look at the sea and the Arctic.
Support local economy
- and sustainable transport !