WFP shifts to recovery in Djibouti to help pastoralists

DJIBOUTI - The United Nations World Food Programme announced today it was gradually shifting from emergency assistance to Food for Work projects this year for thousands of nomadic herders to lessen the impact of recurrent droughts while improving the nutritional status of the most vulnerable in this country near the tip of the Horn of Africa.

"The shift aims at leaving permanent structures for pastoralists in most projects in partnership with the government and other UN agencies," said WFP Djibouti Country Director Benoit Thiry. "WFP couldn't do this alone, so we work with the Ministry of Agriculture and UNICEF to dig wells and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for vegetable gardens."

Food for Work projects consist of WFP, other organizations and the government contracting local communities to build long-term assets in rural areas to help people to cope with droughts. WFP provides food in exchange for local workers building lasting infrastructure such as gardens and wells.

Some 5,600 Food for Work participants will receive a five-person family ration in exchange for their work, resulting in a total of 28,000 people deriving benefits from the food assistance.

At the peak of the last lean season in September 2006, when food from the last harvest ran out, 20 percent of the population was food insecure. The 2007-2008 forecast suggests more abundant rainfall, but pastoralists who lost all their animals in the Horn of Africa drought of 2006 need help to rebuild their shattered livelihoods.

Nomads in northwestern Djibouti are the most vulnerable in the entire country. Recurrent droughts in the past five years have devastated the pasture lands upon which rural herdsmen traditionally rely.

Without assistance, many people will be forced to move to Djibouti city, where they lose their pastoralist lifestyle and are often forced to dwell in the spreading slums on the outskirts of the capital. "We are trying to help those who want to stay in rural areas by improving water access and gardens," says Thiry.

Unlike neighbouring countries, agriculture is very limited in Djibouti because of inadequate rainfall and high temperatures. The sector only accounts for 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Just 5,000 metric tons of vegetables are produced locally, and the country imports more than 80% of its cereal requirements.

Despite shifting from free food distributions to Food For Work programmes, WFP will still maintain a contingency food stock in Djibouti should an emergency arise. Assistance to refugees from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, school feeding and food for nutritional centres will continue.

Targeted food distributions are underway during the June-August lean season. A new WFP operation for Djibouti began in mid-April and requires US$12.4 million until the end of March 2009. It plans to provide assistance through various programmes, including Food for Work and targeted distributions, for a total of 57,000 people in Djibouti from April to August.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: on average, each year, we give food to 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 58 million hungry children, in 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP - We Feed People.

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For more information please contact (email address:

Benoit Thiry, WFP/Djibouti, Tel, +253 353 422, Cell. +253 864 117

Stephanie Savariaud, WFP/Nairobi, Cell. +254 733 528912

Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi, Tel +254-20-7622179, Cell +254-733-528-911

Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel.. +44-20-72409001, Cell. +44-7968-008474

Christiane Berthiaume, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Cell. +41-792857304

Cécile Sportis, WFP/Paris, Tel. +33-1-70385330, Cell. +33-6161-68266

Jennifer Parmelee, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149, Mob. +1-202-4223383

Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Cell. +1-646-8241112,