February 10, 2017…Tens of thousands of families are abandoning their homes across drought-stricken Somalia in search of food, water and viable grazing land amid alarming indications of the breadth of the food crisis gripping the nation.
Local government authorities and Save the Children field offices are reporting that hundreds of trucks a day have been arriving in the coastal regions of Puntland over the last six weeks carrying families and their livestock from as far as Somaliland, simply because they have heard there had been some fleeting rain just before Christmas.
Further South, in South Central Somalia, the UN is reporting many Somalis are heading in the other direction, with more than 100 drought-stricken refugees a day crossing the Ethiopian border into Dollo Ado camp since the start of January – a rate not seen in four years.
Across Puntland, which is suffering the worst drought the region has seen since 1950, newly internally displaced people who have lost their livestock are gathering in small informal camps looking for water, food and aid. But families are struggling to cope due to soaring water and food prices.
“The movement of people across Somalia and Somaliland, and over the border into Ethiopia, is a sign that Somalia’s proud rural families are on the brink,” said Save the Children Somalia Country Director, Hassan Noor Saadi.
“Conditions are the driest they’ve been in decades and the landscape is peppered with goat carcasses. In some places, we’re now seeing dead camels – normally a grim precursor to a loss in human life. More than 360,000 children under five are already acutely malnourished across, including 71,000 severe cases that are at risk of death.”
“We saw similar signs in 2011, but the world did not act quickly enough – and over a quarter a million Somalis died from famine. We cannot let that happen again.”
Deeqa*, 37, who is living in a small camp with four of her seven children near Bohol-Olodley in Puntland, said she had travelled to the region to find green pastures for their livestock. But now, 90 per cent of their camels, goats and cows have died. There is no school for her children to go to. And she says many of the children in the informal camp where they are living are now sick.
“If you have lost your livestock and you are not staying in big town, how will you survive? As long as you are alive, you are running for your life,” she said. “If it doesn’t rain, who is going to be alive? Life will be gone.”
Amina*, 38, travelled with her children from near Garowe to the same area, also seeking more fertile ground. She said just 50 of the family’s 400 livestock remain – those that do are too weak to produce to milk.
“I have never seen or heard of a drought of the size. I could never have imagined something like this in my mind,” she said.
More than six million people, half of them children, are now in need of urgent life-saving assistance across Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia.
With poor seasonal rains forecast for the coming months, Somalia stands on the brink of famine unless critical funds are made available to provide aid, water and medicines to reach the most vulnerable, especially children.
Notes to editors:
- Save the Children is responding to the forced migration of families, deploying mobile health units and scaling-up its response in health clinics it supports across Puntland, screening for and treating malnutrition among children, waterborne diseases and other serious health concerns. The aid organization is also trucking water into parched communities across Somalia and Somaliland, and providing food vouchers and cash transfers so that families can get enough to eat.