Drought took away everything from us!

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Drought took away everything from us!

 By Saddaam Hussein Carab-Save the Children Somalia/Somaliland

By midday, after two hours of driving from Burao, we reached one of my destinations— Dhudhubka village of Saraar area, in Somaliland. Saraar is an open plateau that cuts across the Sool, Sanaag and Togdher Regions of Somaliland. During my two-hours’ drive, we passed through dry, rough and dusty landscapes before we reached  Dhudhubka.  

Comparing this journey to a similar one I made in the same area in 2015, the scenery is completely different. In 2015, I saw thousands of livestock grazing on green lands full of pasture. In Somali terms, this was evidence of abundance and proof of the richness of the people and the lands.  For instance, a family that owns 300 animals would mean they had a  capital of about USD 20,000. This is good resource for a family.  By then, most families were able to live the life they wanted. The food, shelter, health and even educating their children was never a problem to them.  But this time the situation is different. There are no livestock to be seen around. The green pasture lands have been replaced by dusty, empty plains. Most of the people who lived here are now displaced, living in settlements for Internally  Displaced People ( IDP) scattered across the area including Dhudubka, Ainabo, Magalo Yar, Wadamago and others.

“Two years ago, we owned more than 300 animals. The drought killed all of our animals. We remained with five goats only. That was our capital, our livelihood. We are now poor. We cannot afford anything, ” said  Hodan Ahmed, a mother of five children who now lives in IDP settlement.  

In Somaliland, livestock is not only the source of income and means of survival, but also provides the most important food and nutrition for children and their families. Children were able to get fresh milk as supplementary feeding throughout the day. But once this was lost, thousands of children became malnourished—with some of them facing the most severe forms of malnutrition exposing them to life threatening diseases and even death.   

In the same village I hear the story of Nimo, a seven-months-old baby girl. Before the drought devastated her village, her family had over 100 animals. They remained with only five goats.  She was not as lucky as her elder siblings who had the chance and advantage of getting fresh milk from their livestock. As a result, Nimo become malnourished and her family could not afford to take her to a health centre. The nearest health centre is about 40 KM from Dhudhubka.

Luckily Nimo survived this ordeal because Save the Children’s Mobile Health Clinic,  with financial support from German Federal Foreign Office, reached her just in time to provide the care she needed.  But this was in 2018, when the mobile clinics were still up and running. Today, the clinics are no longer in service due to lack of funding.  

Qule Nur is the only nurse living in Dhudhubka village which accommodates around 500 families. He tells me people come to him for every disease. “I established a small pharmacy in the village five years ago. Before the drought people could pay for the medical services I  provided because they had the animals.  But people lost everything, as a result, most of those who visit cannot afford to pay for their medications. The worst affected are women and children, ” says Qule Nur.

Most of the people I met during this trip, say most parts of the eastern regions didn’t get the rains they expected at end of last year. I visited a number of the Berkads (underground water storages) and most of them were empty. Few of them had small amounts of  visibly unclean water left that was not safe to drink. But out of desperation, many people use that water for drinking. As a result, they get sick and watery diarrhoea diseases ( AWD) is on the rise.

To me, the situation looked desperate and the people looked destitute. Displaced families didn’t know what to do in an IDP area, except to wait for humanitarian assistance. Their world was different when they had their animals as source of income and capital. They survived and thrived. But when the drought took everything, they have lost hope.  They don’t know what the future holds for them.

Qule’s dreams is for his village to have a  fully equipped Maternal and Child Health (MCH) centre to address the needs of the communities while Hodan’s  hope is to regain her livestock so she is able to take care of her family. Many other villages pray clean water to save them from trauma they are facing and to avoid disease outbreaks. Everyone hopes for a better life and assistance to re-establish their livelihoods.