October 18, 2017

Somalia drought, conflict force 1 million people to flee-agency

Somalia drought, conflict force 1 million people to flee-agency

People pull in a wheelchair a woman injured in the explosion of a truck bomb in the centre of Mogadishu, on October 15, 2017. A truck bomb exploded outside a hotel at a busy junction in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on October 14, 2017 causing widespread devastation that left at least 20 dead, with the toll likely to rise. / AFP PHOTO

Over 1 million people in Somalia have been forced to abandon their homes this year seeking food and water, mainly due to drought, an international humanitarian agency said on Wednesday.

The Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Regional Director, Gabriella Waaijman, said that they were alarmed at the massive scale of this crisis.

“On average, a staggering 3,500 people per day have fled their homes this year searching for food and water to stay alive.

“We are witnessing a mass exodus from rural villages not seen since the deadly 2011 to 2012 famine that killed 260,000 people,’’ Waaijman said.

NRC said in a statement that dry rural communities across Somalia have nearly turned into ghost towns, as crops failed, livestock died and families fled in droves after they ran out of all food reserves.

Some 49,000 people fled their homes in September alone, while, most migrated to overcrowded camps in urban areas, where Somalis share their stories of survival.

One of the survivors, Asha Ali Hussein, said she was a victim of drought that ravaged her village and the entire region of Lower Shabelle.

Eight months ago she fled Kontuwarey village, bringing her four children to Mogadishu.

“I abandoned work on our one-hectare farm due to lack of water.

“Rivers dried, there was not a drop of water anywhere, we dug the soil to look for underground water but found nothing, all the water holes had vanished,’’ Hussein said.

NRC noted that the drought crisis has been spiraling downward in 2017.

Half the population, over 6.2 million people, now need humanitarian assistance, of which 3.1 million people are in a crisis situation.

With families on the move in search of food, 388,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished.

“Our 15 cows and 20 goats succumbed to the drought. We had a farm and livestock back in Kontuwarey village.

“Now we are living as displaced people, and we depend on cash assistance from aid agencies in Mogadishu,’’ Hussein said.

NRC has, however, said it is responding to the crisis with direct cash relief for drought-affected families, in addition to other programmes.

It said Hussein has received cash support from NRC for the past four months, including 81 dollars this month to pay for food, water, healthcare and school fees for her children aged four to 10.

This was funded by EU Humanitarian Aid under the EU Cash Alliance for Drought Affected Somalis programme, which has benefited 400,000 people across the country.

“We have to continue this urgent response to prevent another famine from occurring in Somalia.

“Donors have made significant contributions toward this emergency, but more funding is needed.

Predictions for the next rainy season are unfavourable.

“This would push more people over the edge, so continued support is needed,’’ Waiijman warned.

Waiijman said although drought was the main cause of displacement in Somalia this year, other causes included conflict, insecurity and flooding.