Baidoa drought displacement crisis “Who will help us?”

Hunger is once again threatening the lives of millions in Somalia. The impact of climate change, Covid-19, conflict, and the Ukraine war has created an endless cycle of crises.

On a recent visit to one of the worst affected areas of the country, Baidoa, we witnessed unimaginable suffering.

This is an eye-witness account written by Sagal Bafo, the Giving Hope For Them’s Advocacy Manager in Somalia.

Somalia is experiencing one of the worst droughts in its history. The country is bracing for an unprecedented fifth consecutive failed rainy season. After a year’s worth of cyclical climate-induced shocks, from drought to flooding and locust infestations, farmers and pastoralists from rural communities face extreme catastrophic hunger, disease, displacement, and neglect.

Across Somalia, one million people have been displaced due to extreme drought and 7.8 million people are facing crisis levels of food insecurity.

Somalia’s Bay region, particularly Baidoa, is among the hardest hit areas. Here, there’s an acute malnutrition rate of 28 per cent, but there’s limited humanitarian assistance. Single mothers, elderly farmers, and unaccompanied minors told us that they had walked for weeks only to arrive in overcrowded camps. They’re desperately searching for humanitarian aid, but aid hasn’t reached some of these camps for three months.

It’s projected that a famine will be declared in parts of Baidoa between October and December. But during our visit, we saw just how real and devastating the food emergency already is.

“This drought crisis is unlike any other”

Abdi Jees Moalim is 68 years old. He’d only recently arrived at the camp in Baidoa when we met him.

Abdi is a pastoralist. Since March last year, all his livestock have perished. There was nothing left for him and his family of six. “The decision to leave home was a life-saving one,” he says. “There was absolutely nothing left in the rural community. No water.”

But by the time we spoke with Abdi, his children were hospitalised due to extreme thirst and hunger.

He expressed strongly how much the current drought crisis was different to the ones he had experienced in his long life so far. Without saying the phrase “climate crisis”, Abdi explained how drought in Somalia has become more frequent, more intense, and longer in duration.

Two years of inadequate rainfall has dried up harvest fields, rivers and boreholes, resulting in the loss of three million livestock across Somalia. Without their livestock, pastoralists like Abdi have no way to feed their families.

“As a disabled elderly, I am struggling to survive in this camp,” he says. “We have not received any support yet. Who will help us?”

“I had to quickly bury my child”

In all the displacement settlements we visited, it was clear to see the devastating effects of the drought. There were several cases of malnutrition, measles and diarrhea.

We spoke with parents describing the sorrow of not being able to ease their children’s suffering.

Mariam Nur Osman, 23, recently suffered the death of her youngest child. She told us about the desperation that forced her to leave her rural community. “I had no idea how to feed my children,” she said. “There was nothing for me to give them.”

Mariam explained to us how she travelled for four days without food or water before eventually arriving at Baidoa.

Her youngest son Osman, who was only 18 months, was already suffering from acute malnutrition and diarrhea. “It took only three weeks until he passed away. I had to quickly bury my child, according to Islamic tradition.”

Mariam described this while sitting closely with her three other children who are also suffering from acute malnutrition. “The situation will only get worse,” she told us. “We can’t expect to go back home, but I do not how we will survive here.”

Young children who have barely had the chance to live are experiencing the most tragic human suffering.

In another nearby camp, Amino Madey Ahmed, 25, told us that her youngest daughter, Shukri, is severely malnourished and is suffering from measles. She said that she is expecting the worst; Shukri is unlikely to survive the days to come unless she gets urgent medical care.

More needs to be done

Abdi, Mariam and Amino represent the harsh reality for thousands of other Somalis who are facing the severe impact of the climate and displacement crisis.

As we listened to the stories of many of those living in overcrowded camps in Baidoa, it became clear that the current data and figures on the crises fail to acknowledge the everyday human experience of those living through the crisis.

While humanitarian organisations, like GHFT, are trying hard to scale up their humanitarian emergency response, people in Baidoa have expressed feelings of neglect. During our visit, we witnessed extreme suffering and despair. Many are unable to access water or food and will not have the ability to wait any longer. As the drought continues, more must be done to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable displaced communities. It is time for us to quickly mobilise and act now; a day’s delay means the loss of more lives.

Related Posts