‘No sign of rain’: Citizens despair as drought devastates Somalia | News


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Dayniile, Somalia – Faduma Hassan Mohamed has never witnessed a time like this.

When rains failed to fall as in previous years, she thought the river near her village of Buulo Warbo in Somalia’s southern Kuntunwarey district would not run dry.

She explained that first the sky above became clear, and then it was dry and hot. The fertile soil beneath her feet, which used to provide food for her family, became dark brown dust. The river then dried up.

“We were farmers. We took care of the land. We had a river, and we used its water to water our crops. We grew beans and maize. Today, we [have] lost all of that,” the mother-of-six told Al Jazeera.

“There was no sign of rain in the sky and no water in the river. I can’t even remember the last time we harvested anything from the farm,” Faduma, who does not know her age, added.

Buulo Warbo, more than 140km (87 miles) southeast of the capital, Mogadishu, is in the Lower Shabelle region, one of the country’s breadbasket areas. This region was once home to Mogadishu’s food production. After four unsuccessful rainy seasons, the people of the region are now on the move and trekking by foot to the capital.

Some people have lost their lives along the way. Faduma is one example of someone who survived.The IDP camp was located in the Dayniile region, just outside of Mogadishu. Two of her children are there with her, the rest are with their grandmother.

According to the government of Horn of Africa, nearly 25 million people are facing starvation.

Most Somalis live as pastoralists and depend on their livestock for food. According to the UN, more than 805,000 people are displaced and about 3 million livestock animals have died due to the ongoing drought. Nearly 7.1 million Somalis, almost half of the country’s population, face acute levels of food insecurity.

‘No one is here to help us’

Even in camps, the aid is not easy to obtain for the displaced.

“I’m here for 10 days [and] we have not received any help,” Faduma said about the plight of new arrivals at the Dayniile camp. “No one is here to help us. Only a water tap is available. Is water food? We are just drinking water.”

Faduma Hashed Mohamed walked from Buulo Warbo (more than 140km southeast) to the capital, Mogadishu [Hamza Mohamed/Al Jazeera]

Many cannot find shelter from the strong winds and scorching sun. Faduma was one of those lucky people who received a tarpaulin thanks to volunteers. Faduma built her tiny shack with a few sticks, twigs and some wood.

“They [the IDPs]Have nothing [and] every day more of them are arriving,” Deeqo Ahmed, a volunteer leader, told Al Jazeera. “We gather whatever we can from good Samaritans and distribute to them. Their health is poor, especially for the young.

“Camps like these are forming everywhere because of the drought. There are over 500 families living in this camp. This is not known by any agency. They came here looking for help but there is no help,” Deeqo added.

Children are most at risk, with many suffering from malnutrition and precarious health. Since January, UN estimates that at least 200 children died from undernutrition or disease in East African countries.

Al Jazeera visited the camp and saw several children on the verge of death, their mothers watching helplessly.

‘Everything has become expensive’

This East African country has been through several droughts in its history, with severity and frequency increasing in recent years.

“We are not among those that cause climate change but we are victims of it,” Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, Somalia’s special presidential envoy for drought response, told Al Jazeera. “In the last 30 years, due to climate change and insecurity, there have been 12 droughts and 16 floods. The Somali people are between floods and droughts.”

Many of the people fleeing droughts have moved to big cities because of rising inflation due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and pandemic. More than 90 percent of Somalia’s wheat used to come from Ukraine and Russia. The price of wheat has risen dramatically since the closure of Ukrainian ports, putting more people in poverty.

Somalia drought
The UN says nearly 7.1 million Somalis, almost half of the country’s population, face acute levels of food insecurity [Hamza Mohamed/Al Jazeera]

According to the UN, the country’s poverty rate – measured as those living on less than $2 a day – stands at 73 percent.

“Before a kilo of rice used to be 18,000 shillings [$0.72]A kilo (or a kilogram) of flour was 18,000 shillings. A kilo (or a kilogram) of pasta was 18,000 and a single litre of oil was 16,000 shillings. [$0.64]. Everything has become more expensive. 45,000 shillings is the price of a litre oil [$1.80]A kilo is a kilogram of rice, which costs 37,500 shillings [$1.50]A kilo is 112 of rice [25,000 shillings],” Omar Mohamud Abdi, a labourer, told Al Jazeera.

Traders from all over the country claim that their hands are tied and they have no other options for helping customers who are in dire need.

“Some of the customers are shocked how expensive goods have become. We explain to customers how expensive things have become. It is now more difficult to import goods from the places where we used them. Some understand the situation and others walk away,” Abdiweli Issa Ali, a shopkeeper at the country’s largest market, Bakara, told Al Jazeera.

‘No dignity in that’

According to the USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) and the UN’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) the 2022 Deyr (rainy season) from October to December is forecast to be below average. The forecast states that conditions will not improve until the middle of 2023 at the earliest.

“The drought is affecting all parts of Somalia,” Abdirahman told Al Jazeera. “Every province has a pocket where the situation is severe. We need about $1.4bn to respond to the drought situation.”

A few shacks from Faduma is Aden Ali Hassan cuddling his son and squinting at the burning sun.

“All our animals have died,” Aden, a 42-year-old widower with five children, said. “Our farms disappeared because we haven’t received any rain. I walked for four straight days to Afgoye. [30km (19 miles) from Mogadishu] then took a car here.”

“We have received only tarpaulin but no food. My village has two hundred and fifty families [Buulo Warbo]We are here. We haven’t had any harvest from our farms for the last three years,” he added.

Others displaced people are left stranded in IDP camps, without any assistance. They only hope that the skies will open up and rain down to save them.

“We pray to God we get good rains. It is not a good idea to live here and eat insecurely. There is no dignity in that,” Faduma, the mother-of-six, said.

Follow Hamza Mohamed Twitter: @Hamza_Africa


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