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“Since October, the food crisis has worsened because the rains have not come. As a result, more people suffer from hunger and livestock also die, as a result of which the locals cannot provide for their basic needs. As hunger is more widespread, more people are moving in the hope of finding food and water,” CARE humanitarian worker Walter Mawere describes the situation in Somalia for Seznam Zpravy.
The humanitarian crisis in Somalia and parts of Ethiopia continues to deepen. The torrential rains, which are essential for the lives of the shepherds there, did not come even during the fifth season in autumn 2022. The Horn of Africa is thus preparing for the next few months of drought, but in the hope that a miracle will happen this spring.
List The reports already covered the situation in Somalia and southern Ethiopia in October. Now we have once again contacted the humanitarian workers of the CARE and ADRA organizations, who work directly in the field. And as can be seen from the first paragraphs, their message is not at all positive this time either.
How it was in the fall
Due to the lack of rain, the countries of the Horn of Africa have been dealing with a record drought for several seasons in a row, the effects of which threaten millions of people.
Challenging journey for water
An additional 2.2 million Somalis may face high levels of acute food insecurity between January and March 2023, according to a CARE report from the beginning of the year. According to the organization, this represents a major increase compared to the previous year.
A million people have already left their homes due to the drought and the humanitarian crisis that partly stems from it. They are looking for food, water and pasture for the livestock left only for the lucky ones. Aid workers therefore warn that Somalia will need more money for this, as it already ranks high in the number of internally displaced people.
These people are not won even if they manage to get into the camps. Survival in inhumane conditions awaits them there.
“(Refugees) have no proper shelter to protect them from the heat and have to rely on humanitarian organizations to provide them with food and other basic needs. Children drop out of school in some cases. Some camps do not have proper lighting and sanitary facilities,” Mawere describes the situation in hundreds of camps in Somalia.
For example, 38-year-old Halimo Abdiová lives in one of the refugee camps. A shepherdess who was able to feed her family thanks to her flock. She had milk and water and could afford three meals a day. Due to the drought, she lost this “luxury” and ended up in a camp together with her eleven-member family.
“We had to leave our home when the current drought killed all our animals. We lost everything we had. We came to the camp in Kismayo three months ago with the hope of getting food and we rely only on alms. Our children are sick because they don’t have enough food. Besides, we don’t have money to buy them medicine. We are facing so many problems and only God can help us,” she said.
The drought also drove out Khadija Muali and her four children. She spent a week with the children on the way to get food and water. Only two survived the journey. The three-year-old daughter Hawa Lul died of “hunger and fatigue” on the first day, and the seven-year-old son Andul Rasaq on the fourth day, the National Geographic server described their story last November.
“Somali pastoralists depend on camel and goat farming,” says Walter Mawere, a humanitarian aid worker at CARE. If it doesn’t rain and it’s dry, the cattle have nowhere to graze.
“I met families who had 500 goats or 50 camels. Some lost half of their animals, others lost all their animals. They also lost meat and milk, which they sold on or used for their livelihood, so they lost their livelihood. So what are you left with? You leave home and seek refuge in refugee camps. You are dependent on food and water supplies, which is not available. While women used to walk a kilometer to fetch water, today they have to walk five,” she describes the reality of many families.
Zbyněk Wojkowski from the humanitarian organization ADRA, which operates in Ethiopia, also tells Seznam Zprávám about similar personal tragedies.
“People here (under normal circumstances), which is mainly due to the conditions, would consume meat and milk from their own cattle. Since there are not many options for what to grow, they would consume pulses, pasta and rice, which are imported, or bread, which they make from purchased flour. But when they don’t have it, they skip several meals a day,” he describes.
“The less you eat, especially for children under five, the greater the risk of catching measles or cholera. It’s a cycle that makes everything worse. Imagine that there aren’t enough health facilities for people to walk to, so even the smallest illness will mark you. We know of people who are on the march for 20 hours and don’t eat for three days,” says Djoen Besselink from Doctors Without Borders.
Desperate people thus often migrate to cities, which can escalate into riots or destabilize the state, another pitfall Wojkowski points out.
The conditions are also bleak in the camps in Ethiopia’s Somali region. “There are 50 refugee camps in the region. There are 200 families in each camp. Water is brought into the camps, they have a school and a health center. Nevertheless, people there live only in basic wicker shelters in cramped conditions and wait to see what happens,” describes Zbyněk Wojkowski, a humanitarian worker of the ADRA organization, who visited the area in November 2022, to SZ.
“The dwellings of these people are crammed into a small space. Children usually go to school in the morning and mothers, if they have food, cook in the meantime. Otherwise, those people are simply there. They have nothing to do and nowhere to go. In addition, it is forty degrees from one to four, so it is unbearably hot,” he continues.
Not even the rain will save everyone
Although no region has yet officially declared a famine, Somalia is not far from it. However, the worst-case scenario is being averted for now precisely by the quickly provided humanitarian aid.
“For a famine to be declared, food experts, in cooperation with the government, must agree that certain thresholds have been exceeded. In Somalia, according to experts, as a result of some humanitarian interventions by various actors, not all thresholds for declaring famine have been reached yet,” explains Mawere. However, according to him, there is no reason for optimism.
If it doesn’t rain even in the sixth rainy season in a row, the black scenario of famine could come true in just a few months. More money can reverse it. Similar to other parts of the world, the cost of living is rising in the Horn of Africa, which also affects the scope of possible assistance to those in need, humanitarian workers agree.
And heavy rain may not come. “The next period of rainfall is expected in March, April and May. All indications are that there will be below average rainfall in the country, which will further worsen the situation… But if it rains enough, it would bring much needed relief to the locals. Rains, pastures and drinking water,” says Mawere.
“If the situation does not change, those who have already gone to the camps will remain there until the long-term drought ends. Everyone hopes that when it rains, they will be able to go back to where they came from,” emphasizes Wojkowski. He adds that the locals themselves are not happy about staying in the camps and only go there if they find themselves in a hopeless situation.
Even after the desired return home, however, many will not have won. “Hundreds of thousands of displaced people will need help to return to their villages and rebuild their herds and homes. In short, it will be essential to help them get back on their feet and diversify their sources of livelihood,” adds Wojkowski.
Mawere also perceives the need to find long-term solutions for communities that contribute the least to climate change, even if they pay the most for it. Thus, he sees the future of shepherds and farmers in, for example, smart water retention and agriculture.