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Food Scarcity in Djibouti

Djibouti is a small arid country in Eastern Africa. It has extremely important and convenient transshipment facilities at the mouth of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Its terrestrial neighbors are Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Maritime neighbor is Yemen. Djibouti has a convenient geographical position in means of trade. Its capital and main port Addis Ababa transports about 60 percent of Ethiopian export goods. Djibouti has a lot of problems. Its climate is arid. There are few fertile lands in Djibouti. Neighboring Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia impose additional tension in the region. Conflicts between Somalia and Eritrea adversely affect Djibouti. Bilateral ties between Djibouti and Eritrea were suspended in the period of 1998-2000. Such instability harms Djibouti and aggravates its economic lagging. Djibouti’s population comprises two main ethnical groups: Muslim tribe Issai with Somalian origin and Afars with Ethiopian origin.

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Scarcity of food and water are the most severe problems in Djibouti. There is also lack of expertise in dealing with these problems (Zoungrana, 2013). High unemployment and high food prices exacerbate the situation. The local government is seemed to be unable to improve the situation. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) reports, that Djibouti’s urban centers like Balbala, Radiska, and Baulaos suffer food insecurity. Moreover, rural areas encounter food insecurity, too.

Imed Khanfir, a programme adviser with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) reports, that about 42,600 people are severely food insecure with 24,300 others moderately food insecure in Djibouti. An overall population is 774,389 citizens by 2012. USAID provide Djibouti with food aid for 150,000 or one-fourth of the overall Djibouti’s population. Unstable economic situation is aggravated by the instant threat of the civil war between the tribes of Issais and Afars. Thus, the leader of ethnic groups dealt to share positions in the government. When the president is Issais’ representative, the prime minister must be of Afars’ origin. The Cabinet of Ministers positions also ought to be distributed among Issais and Afars. In 1990s Issais managed to usurp the whole government. This fact caused Afars’ outrage and provoked a civil war in Djibouti.

Another Djibouti’s problem is an undemocratic and authoritarian tendency. Djibouti’s president Ismail Omar Guelleh has already served two terms as a president of the country, but 2010 Constitutional amendment allowed him to be reelected for the third term. Nevertheless, international community and U.S. are seemed to tolerate such situation because of the Guelleh’s agreement to erect US military base and anti-terrorist center in Djibouti. U.S. military base brought stability in the region, but did not eliminate all problems and threats.

On the one hand, Djibouti was severely affected by the drought which hit the region in 2011. The number of drought influenced people rose from 120,000 in 2010 to 206,000 in 2011. Drought impact was aggravated by a large influx of refugees fleeing the conflict and drought in Somalia and other neighboring countries. This adds enormously to the burden on the already overstretched social service system. Another huge problem in Djibouti is its government inability to respond quickly the situation due to the elections. Every election makes government stagger and implement different initiatives very slowly. Electoral process makes government inactive and unable to solve the urgent needs of its people. Every new election causes a wholesale reorganization of the government, which initiates a set of new government initiatives which also had the effect of decreasing the government responsiveness.

On the other hand, GDP growth remained relatively sufficient though it dropped short of expectations in 2011. The average GDP growth in period of 2005-2010 was around 5%. After five years of growth, economy slowed to 4.6% growth in 2011 against a predicted rate of 5.1%. The main guarantees for growth were foreign direct investment (FDI), mainly from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, into projects located around the port and construction and in the tourism sector.

Concerning per capita income, the growth of the economy reached 1263 USD in 2010, qualifying Djibouti for middle income country (MIC) status under international classification. Military presence of France, the USA and Japan guarantee Djibouti’s economy additional significant revenue. Population growth is estimated at 2.18 percent every year. Djibouti Human Development Index was 0.430 in 2011, ranking the country 165 out of 187 countries. In 2010, life expectancy was 58 years, while mean years of school education was 3.8. UN still possesses no data concerning the scales of poverty in Djibouti in 2013. According to the period of the past five years, the situation did not improve, but deteriorated further in 2013. The overall amount of people living below the national poverty line more than doubled between 2002 and 2009 while the rate of people living below the nationwide extreme poverty line increased similarly over the same period. It is obvious that the economic growth of the recent past has not yet affected the poverty reduction for the large part of the population.

The Government is seemed to neglect all the possibilities in expanding the humanitarian assistance taking into account the military presence in the country. New middle income country status has closed access to many grant and concessionary lending. MIC status is very unstable according to a huge amount of people living below extreme poverty line. There are no new international NGOs established operations since 2011 despite the drought emergency. The government should take more care about involving international NGO. As a result, Djibouti’s government keeps relying on UN support for technical assistance in key strategic spheres related to poverty alleviation. UN help the Djibouti’s government to accumulate resources from donors to address humanitarian needs of the most unprotected groups, influenced by the recurrent droughts.

As a result, Djiboutian households keep experiencing strong food related economic pressures. The average cost of the basic food basket in 2011 remained well above the average cost for the previous five years.

In 2011, the drought emergency that hit the region of Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia further aggravated the uneasy situation of the most vulnerable segments of the population, particularly those residing in the rural areas. The drought provoked the continued accumulation of livestock losses (close to 80 percent of the cattle in some areas) with a similar influence on the livelihoods of the nomadic population. Rural dwellers keep migrating to the urban areas swelling urban unemployment (60%) and poverty (42.1% extreme poverty). As a result, the UN Country Team had to devote an increased amount of time to accumulate resources to support humanitarian interventions in 2011.

Furthermore, the drought and worsening insecurity in South Somalia kept provoking increases in the number of refugees infiltrating Djibouti. The quantity of refugees in the Ali Addeh camp rose from 12,000 to more than 14,000 over the course of 2010 and to 19,500 refugees at the end of 2011, a significant increase for a country of 818,159 people. In addition, the influx of migrants from Ethiopia, rushing towards Djibouti City, in seek of employment, and Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia) via the Bab el-Mandeb Straits also continued, and reached spectacular figures at certain points in the year.

The civil war threat follows Djibouti since 1991. Afars’ minority struggled with Issa-dominated government. The conflict ended by signing a peace agreement in 1999 and electing a new president. Thus, recurrent influx of new refugees and immigrants from the neighboring countries reignites the conflict time after time. Peace agreement did not eliminate local violence. Ethiopian military operation in Somalia affected Djibouti negatively. Population was divided in their support of the belligerents.

Djibouti has a significant number of people infected by HIV/AIDS. About 1 percent of the population lives with HIV (approximately 7,700 citizens [6,200-9,400]). The most vulnerable group is children, born by HIV/AIDS infected mothers.

The UN Refugee Agency prescribes the main objectives and targets for 2014 for Djibouti. Among the main goals is refusal in refoulement and access to the refugee camps in Djibouti. Every month there are up to 400 new refugees in Djibouti from southern Somalia. About 2,700 refugees from Ethiopia and Eritrea also seek for asylum in Djibouti. The UN bodies provide regular trainings for Djibouti’s staff in order to help boarder guards and law-enforcement officials. All refugee children must be provided with birth certificates. Djibouti’s government with the UN Refugee Agency assistance ought to provide basic needs and essential services to the refugees. Basic needs include sanitation and hygiene conditions. The Holl-Holl and Ali-Addeh camps were provided with about 2,000 family latrines and 200 garbage pits. At least once a month UN employees conduct hygiene-awareness campaigns and camp clean-ups. Sanitation interventions must be frequent in order to protect refugees from health hazards.

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Djibouti’s problems are seemed to make vicious circle. On the one hand, arid climate and absence of oil deposits complicate enormously the economic growth in Djibouti. Regional instability, civil war, excessive immigrants’ influx aggravate the situation. The government has no financial resources to instigate industrial development let alone the environment protection issues. 40 percent of citizens live below the extreme poverty line. 1 percent is infected by AIDS/HIV. Djibouti’s GDP grows, but the positive result is erased by the loans’ repayments. . Djibouti imports almost 90 percent of its food and 100 percent of its fuel, which makes it even more vulnerable to the droughts and food prices on the world market.

The country is seemed to be hostage of its own climate and lack of mineral resources and oil. Budget income grows due to transshipment and port fees, Djibouti’s monopoly to export goods from Ethiopia by railroads to the port Addis Ababa. Another positive factor is a military presence of France, the USA and Japan. Military bases pay taxes to the state budget and help fighting terrorism in the region.

International Monetary Fund praises Djibouti for almost 5 percent GDP growth per annum. Nevertheless, the aforementioned factors burden the economy and oblige to raise taxes. International humanitarian assistance is still insufficient for the overall welfare in Djibouti. IMF recommends the government of Djibouti to implement reforms in the public sector and avoid unnecessary budget expenditures.

Works cited

“United Nations Development Group” .http://www.undg.org/unct.cfm?module=CoordinationProfile&page=Country&CountryID=DJI&fuseaction=UN%20Country%20Coordination%20Profile%20for%20Djibouti

“The World Factbook.”Central Intelligence Agency. Web. 29 Dec. 2013. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/dj.html>.

“The Vital Port of Djibouti Receives International Aid Read more: Djibouti: Geography, History, Politics, and More | Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/country/djibouti.html?pageno=2

Zoungrana, S. “Food insecurity looms in Djibouti.” 15 07 2013. Web. 29 Dec. 2013. <http://www.irinnews.org/report/98408/food-insecurity-looms-in-djibouti>.

“Resident Coordinator Annual Report 2011 for Djibouti.” n.d. n. page. Web. 1 Jan. 2014. <http://www.undg.org/rcar2011.cfm?fuseaction=RCAR&ctyIDC=DJI&P=1625>.

“Djibouti: Fifth Review Under the Extended Credit Facility – IMF.” 19 May. 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2012/cr12197.pdf

“2013 UNHCR country operations profile – Djibouti.” Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e483836


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