“I am 75 years old. I have not heard of or seen such a severe drought,” said Abdi.
Abdi’s family are among many others taking refuge in temporary shelters surrounding the village of Tukaraq, in northern Somalia.
They travelled here by foot, some 150 kilometres from their home.
Like many other drought-affected families across Somalia, their situation is getting desperate.
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“We lost a grandson. He’s gone. He died while on our way here. Thirst and dehydration killed him,” said Abdi.
The difficult journey also claimed the vast majority of his family’s livestock.
“Initially we moved to the Ethiopian border,” he said. “While there the livestock we had with us fell sick. We had travelled with 1,200 goats and sheep. Only 60 goats and sheep survived.”
Most people in Somalia are pastoralists. They depend on their livestock for survival.
The drought conditions have forced these communities to travel long distances in search of water and pasture.
Some are forced to leave behind family members who are too weak to move.
“This drought is different from the previous droughts. People from all over do not have anywhere to escape to and some came here,” explained Abdi.
Some 6.2 million people in Somalia are affected by an ongoing drought. This figure is expected to increase over the coming lean season.
Poor and failed rains over the last two years have led to reduced harvest, increased food prices and the loss of livestock.
The situation is complicated in some regions by widespread fighting, which limits trade, agriculture and humanitarian help.
If the next rainy season between April and June fails, there are widespread concerns that a period of severe hunger could take hold across the region – neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia are also affected.
This is especially true in areas of Somalia where humanitarian access is limited due to insecurity.
The British Red Cross is working with the Somali Red Crescent to expand its response to drought. We are supporting a network of health clinics and also working with communities to help them prepare for and respond to disasters like this.
The Somali Red Crescent, in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), are currently distributing food to 140,000 drought-affected people.
In the coming days, 100,000 more people will receive cash and other essential items.
For Abdi and his family, this support, along with that from host communities, has proved to be the difference between life and death.
“It’s a heavy burden and they cannot support everyone,” he said of his Tukaraq hosts. “But, we are alive because they gave us water and anything they could help us with.”
- Somalia is just one country experiencing drought and chronic food shortages. For more information, read: Millions going hungry in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.
- Please donate to our East Africa Crisis Appeal.