Bradford based UK NGO Muslim Hands have just returned from Somaliland after visiting the area to assess the situation in the drought stricken region of East Africa.
Following the devastating drought of 2010-12 in Somalia where an estimated 260, 000 lives were lost, the region finds itself again in a similar predicament. The current drought is at risk of becoming a major famine if the donor community does not act fast enough.
The ongoing drought has destroyed crops and livestock in northern Somalia, causing child malnutrition to skyrocket. The drought is the worst seen in decades, wresting from food supplies of many families. Children are being particularly hard hit; in February 2016, UN officials predicted that close to 60,000 children in Somalia would starve to death if they were unable to access urgent aid. Almost one million people are struggling to meet their daily needs, leading the UN to request 105 million dollars of aid to provide emergency relief to the 385,000 people in Somaliland and Puntland.
Further to this, to help to deal with the effects of the drought a National Drought Committee was arranged by the President of Somaliland, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud. The National Drought Committee arranged for the Muslim Hands, who were joined by a delegation including other charities and the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, MP Diane Abbot, to visit several stricken areas such as Habaas and Borama, the main town in Awdal region which borders Ethiopia and Djibouti, and is worst affected by the drought. Here the delegation was able to visit refugee camp sites and witness for themselves the sad reality of the worsening situation.
One lady who is living through these bitter times is 48-year old widow Fathima. Fathima, lives at the IDP camp in Awdaal. When Muslim Hands arrived she had been there two days and travelled 500km to get there. Aid workers were immediately drawn to her because she was the only person in the camp who they came across cooking. On being questioned why she was cooking she said: “I have no choice. I have to cook as I have eight children to feed. Besides, it keeps my mind off the situation and stops me getting ill”.
The food she was making was from the standard aid packs charities/local government provide which include staples like flour, rice, oil and water. Fathima, is a widow with eight children ranging from the six-year old in the shelter with her to 17 years. She says she sends the rest of them to collect firewood and tries to keep them as busy as possible, or they fall into depression because of the dire situation they are in.
Her husband, who was a charcoal buyer, died two years ago and left her in a dire situation. She had two cattle, who have both died because of the drought. She is hopeful that if she had a few more she and her family would be able to get by.
When asked how she intends to survive this drought, she said “only god knows”. She says the aid which comes to the camp they are in is very ad-hoc, so they survive on a whim and a prayer – or sadly for many others in the camp so far, they just don’t survive at all.
Following the visit Ms Abbott commented “Weather conditions like El Nino contributed to a failure of the 2015 rains across Somaliland and Puntland in northern Somalia. People are dying from hunger and thirst, and the impact will be catastrophic if the international community does not step up its response”.
Ever since the droughts of 2011 Muslim Hands have been operating in the Somalia region carrying out work in the areas of emergency relief, education, water sanitation, food security, health and income generation schemes.
Muslim Hands Aid worker, Sofia Buncy who was part of the delegation stated of her experience: “as you approach the camps it immediately becomes apparent that this is a desperate situation. The absence of water has resulted in the huge loss of livestock which was very much evident along the journey as we witnessed the bodies of cattle laying roadside. The people in the camps are truly in a desperate situation, and having travelled many miles (sometimes up to 70km) to arrive here, find a serious lack of water, food and shelter.
“Rivers and canals are arid and dried, trees are all but dying and the nearest water supply is many kilometers in land. Aid is arriving, but the areas are very remote and difficult to get to. The memory which will perhaps haunt me the most is witnessing several malnourished women trying to breastfeed their crying and starving babies with no joy as their milk stores have depleted.
“I would like to appeal to members of the public to please give this catastrophe some attention. Please help and donate so we can get emergency relief and build resilience for any future such droughts. Waiting another day will result in the loss of more lives.”
You can donate to Sofia’s JustGiving page here, in order to help raise funds to build several wells in the Somalia region: https://www.justgiving.com/Sofia-Buncy?utm_id=10