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BALBALA, 27 November 2012 (IRIN) – Successive years of poor rains have eroded the coping mechanisms of pastoralists in Djibouti’s rural regions, even as high food prices and unemployment rates afflict the country’s urban areas. These factors are increasing the vulnerability to food insecurity and spurring migration.
The area of Balbala, about 12km outside of Djibouti City, has become home to families fleeing both harsh conditions in the countryside and dwindling livelihood opportunities in the city.
“What we need most is food”
Awale Farah, 65, migrated with his family of seven from the rural Ali Sabieh area, near the southern town of Dikhil, to Balbala three months ago. Dikhil lies along the border with Ethiopia and has a large number of migrants, complicating access to scarce basic resources there.
Farah says that back in Ali Sabieh, residents are moving closer to the Ali Addeh refugee camp, hoping to obtain some of the assistance meant for the camp’s 16,778 refugees. “I don’t know how they are getting along. What we need most is food,” he said.
At present, about 70,000 people in rural Djibouti are food insecure. More than 60 percent of household food supply is being met by food assistance in the northwest pastoral zone, according to an October-to-March 2013 food security outlook by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET).
In the southeast pastoral border area, “households are marginally able to meet minimum food needs only through accelerated depletion of livelihood assets and adoption of unsustainable coping strategies such as charcoal sales,” the outlook says.
The areas most affected by hunger include Obock in the north, Dikhil and Balbala. According to 2010 figures, 42.9 percent of the children in Obock showed signs of wasting. In 2006, Djibouti ranked second in the world for prevalence of wasting in children under five, at 21 percent.
But life in Balbala is not easy, either. “The situation here is very hard. Sometimes we get money from family members in town,” Farah said. “In Dikhil, at least we had livestock that would always provide us with food.” Even so, many pastoralists have lost their livestock to the successive droughts
To cope, Farah has split up his family – two of his children are staying with relatives in Djibouti City.