By Mohammed Dhaysane
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AA) - The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Monday issued a drought alert for Somalia, highlighting the depleted Shabelle River.
The FAO said water levels in the river have reached historically low levels around the central city of Beletweyne, the provincial capital of the Hiiran region.
"Around 2 million people live in the riverine districts depending on Shabelle River for food production & livelihoods," the FAO said in a statement posted on Twitter.
The drought severity in Somalia has continued to worsen following a prolonged dry spell characterized by high temperatures.
"The drought conditions in Jubaland in southern parts of the country have deteriorated from severe to extreme," the UN agency said in a recent report on Somalia drought conditions.
“Other areas that were experiencing mild drought conditions in the north are now facing moderate levels of drought with the situation expected to get worse. Wells are drying up rapidly while the river levels along the Juba and Shabelle continue to decrease at an alarming rate,” it said.
More than 90% of the country is experiencing drought conditions at different severity magnitudes, with the southern and central parts being worst affected, according to the FAO.
Pasture and water came to a complete depletion in many areas in the Horn of Africa nation, leaving an estimated 169,000 in displacement, according to the United Nations relief agency (UNOCHA).
This year, 7.7 million Somalis, nearly half the country's population, will need urgent humanitarian assistance.
The drought has already killed over 13 people including civilians in the Mudug and Gedo region, according to regional officials who spoke to Anadolu Agency over the phone.
Last November, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble declared a state of emergency, calling on the public, religious scholars, businesspeople, and the international community to unite and help people in need.