Blog: Millions affected as fresh climate crisis displace children and their parents in Somalia.

Thursday 16 December 2021

 

By: Binyam Woldetsdaik Gebru, Programme Development and Quality Director, Save the Children, Somalia 

Somalia is facing its fourth consecutive failed rainy season. According to United Nations, more than 2.8 million people in 66 of the country’s 74 districts have been affected; 1.2 million children are projected to be malnourished by December 2021, and nearly 133,000 people have been displaced in search of food water and pasture.

 The stories of families affected were poignant.  Together with the government in Somalia, Save the Children visited some of the communities affected by the climate crisis in southern Somalia.

We visited Baidoa, Dhoobley, Garbaharey. The stories of families affected were very similar. They have travelled long distances to escape starvation, lost their livestock, and didn’t have clean and safe drinking water.

 Ayaan*, 40, was displaced from her village in the Bay region. She was a farmer, and she couldn’t stay in her village after her crops failed. The mother of eight children were displaced in Bay Region.  She is now in one of the IDP camps in Baidoa.

She says: “Our farms got destroyed. There were no water reserves in the nearby areas of Bakinley farms.”

 “We had no water to survive. There was no water for the farms to survive. That is why we fled  to Baidoa. My children are with me. We arrived here with the support of my relatives. From Bakinly to Misir, we walked. From there, people supported us and transported us to reach here.”

In another camp in Baidoa, we visited 59 families who have been sheltered in one of the health facilities temporarily. In a good season, their fertile land is a breadbasket for the region, but the four consecutive failed seasons could not spare them either, so they had to flee to Baidoa town in search of help. Luckily a day earlier to our visit their village received some rains which were good news. All of them almost unanimously told us they were willing to return to their village if they could be supported with seeds and transportation only. Save the children is preparing to support their immediate return before they become part of the old IDP who have become dependent on aid, and we want to avoid that at all cost. The story from another IDP in Baidoa is different. Sadly, they are not keen to return regardless of the rains due to the fear that their youth would be recruited as an army by the rebel group that controls their villages, making their challenges more complex than the other IDPs.

In Dhoobley, we visited an Internally Displaced People(IDP) camp where families had to travel for two days to reach there in search of water and food. They lost almost all their herds, including camels which are mostly resilient to drought and are often the last ones to die.  According to our recent multi-sectoral rapid need assessment in 15 regions and 46 districts-, families have lost 9,027 camels and 15,697 sheep due to the drought, among other animals.  

 

Deka Adam, 38, was a pastoralist just a few months ago. She had about 100 goats and cattle. During the April Gu’ rain season, Deka and her community received below-average rains and feared that this would intensify drought during the summer. Her fears came true when the drought intensified, wells dried up, and the animal started dying.  She came here to save her children.

Local community leaders told us that an estimated 10,000 people have been displaced due to the severe drought in Dhoobley. In one of the camps, we could see how dire the situation is and the urgent need for support. We met mothers and children who did not have food and shelter—they sat out in the scorching sun heat in Dhoobley, which is at the heart of the equator. These families need immediate relief.

“We have been here for a while, and we received no support. We have no food or water available. We have no shelter; we live in a makeshift shelter and have no latrines. My family is struggling, and we are grateful for any support we receive because we need urgent help, Deka tells me as she narrates her ordeal.

“My children do not have access to education. They don’t even go to the Quranic schools. Children in the neighbours have an education like primary schools or Quranic schools. For us, we don’t have the money to pay for our children’s school fees. If we get some money, our priority is to feed our children.

 

We saw emaciated cows standing with no food, just waiting to fall and die. Animal carcass are all over the camp.  Those animals are the few who made it there. The vast majority of the animals died in the villages.   Some of them were owned by Fatuma, who arrived at the camp after walking two days from her home after she lost most of her animals. Fatuma narrated her ordeals with a soft and depressed voice.  She was not even willing to tell us the numbers.

 “I can’t go back to my life in the countryside. I have lost all my livestock, and I don’t have anything to go back. We don’t have food and water.’’ She tells me. For us, animals are sources of milk, meat and livelihood. It is beyond that for families affected by the crisis because they consider those animals that grew up with their kids as a family. They even name their animal and relate to them emotionally. You could tell from their eyes the sense of ‘self-defeatedness’ and helplessness for failing to save their hungry animals but rather witness their death one by one. The depression is understandable. 

The stories were very similar in Garbaharey, in Gedo region. Here the situation was even worse. We visited the newly arrived families and settled at the outskirt of Garbaharey after walking for days to reach there. These are the few who were strong enough to walk with an empty stomach who reached there, and the weak ones had stayed behind, and some are still on their way. Ten new families just arrived while we were in the camp and still counting.

Overall, it looks like Deja vue. In 2017 and 2012, Somalia was stricken by drought and In 2012 quarter of a million people lost their lives due to the late, inadequate and uncoordinated responses by humanitarian actors and government, but in 2017 famine was averted, and the loss to human life was mitigated to a large extent due to the quick and concerted actions. We are at a crossroads. The choice we make now will decide whether we go the 2012 way or the 2017 way. Save the Children is using its contingency funds to provide immediate support to the affected community with cash, water, health and nutrition interventions, but that is not enough, and we need additional resources to save lives and also avoid the reversal of the gains we made from the decades of development work in Somalia.  Somalia’s drought has become more frequent and severe from time to time due to the climate crisis, which is the root cause of the problem, and Somalia is just bearing the brunt of the climate crisis created by others.  Developed nations behind the climate crisis have the responsibility to help Somalia.