Somalia: War-related price hikes hit displaced

News and Press Release
Originally published
NAIROBI, 3 May 2007 (IRIN) - The fighting in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, which resulted in huge numbers of displaced people, has led to increases of between 30 and 70 percent in the price of rental properties, transport, water and basic food and non-food items over the past four weeks, the Food Security Analysis Unit (FSAU) in Somalia has said.

"Insecurity in Mogadishu and surrounding areas, as well as roadblocks, port closures and marine piracy, are creating difficulties for humanitarian access, the importation of food and non-food commodities and inter-regional trade flows in southern Somalia," said FSAU.

In a quarterly report for January to April, the organisation said the sharp increases were compounding problems related to the loss of livelihoods and income.

Fighting in Mogadishu during March and April has resulted in the displacement of up to one-third of the city's population of almost one million as people have fled the city in search of safety, it said.

"Another 30-40 percent of the population of Mogadishu is estimated to be displaced within Mogadishu itself, as people search for areas of safety within the city," it added. Activities in the main Mogadishu port have also slowed down due to renewed marine piracy and the imposition of new port tariffs, which in turn had an impact on the supply and price of imported food and non-food commodities to and within the Mogadishu market catchment area, said FSAU.

It added that prices increased noticeably between mid-March and early to mid-April in Mogadishu, the Shabelle Valley and central regions. The price of rice, wheat flour and sugar increased by between 50 and 67 percent in Mogadishu, 38-43 percent in Baidoa, 25-50 percent in Kismayo, and 25-38 percent in Merka and Jowhar.

These sharp and unusual price increases are attributed to the slowdown in port activities, the reduction in the importation of goods through Mogadishu, increased costs associated with transportation, as well as the possible inflationary impact due to the high demand created by the influx of displaced people into urban areas.

"Insecurity has disrupted market activities, informal trade and the casual labour market in Mogadishu. The depreciation of the Somali shilling against the dollar noted between January and February continues, with further depreciation in south, central and northeast Somalia," said FSAU.

Despite the availability of locally produced cereals at relatively low prices, food access for displaced populations, especially the poorest, is difficult due to the sudden disruption in livelihoods and loss of income-earning abilities, combined with limited savings, said FSAU.

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Programme said on Thursday it was to scale up its food delivery to the displaced and was considering food aid distributions in Mogadishu. WFP Somalia Country Director, Peter Goossens, told IRIN on Thursday: "We are exploring possibilities of making distributions in Mogadishu [to] returnees. "WFP is undertaking an assessment of Mogadishu hospitals for possible assistance for conflict victims," he added.