Drought and conflict have led to a critical humanitarian crisis in Somalia. Over 6.2 million people are in need of urgent help – more than half the country’s population. The Times photographer Jack Hill visited Sool, in Somaliland, one of the worst affected areas. His images capture the crisis and the Red Cross Red Crescent response.
A dust tornado rips through the arid, desolate landscape.
It is only six years since devastating food shortages claimed the lives of more than 250,000 in Somalia, half of them children.
The current drought stems from two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall. Thousands of lives in the Horn of Africa are once again at risk.
The Somali Red Crescent has over 4,000 volunteers across the country. They run a mobile health clinic, dubbed ‘the NHS of Somalia.’
It delivers health care to communities in remote parts of the country.
Somalia remains one of the least densely populated countries in Africa. Rural populations can be settled or nomadic, which creates huge challenges for the provision of basic services like health and education.
A village elder has texted the Red Crescent to say there is a suspected cholera outbreak in their community. The team is on their way.
The clinic is over 80km (50 miles) from the main road, driving across open plains with no road markings.
This makeshift health clinic used to be a school. Education has had to make way for a health emergency.
Zainab has worked at the Somali Red Crescent for over 15 years. She is here to register the patients. She records 56 patients, with another 14 having arrived today.
“The cases we’re seeing are an emergency now,” she said.
There are three rooms full of women and children all with symptoms of acute watery diarrhoea. Children lie helpless on the floor, weak with sickness.
Abdul looks on in despair as his two-year-old son Yusuf is treated for suspected cholera. He brought his son here this morning with his pregnant wife Zahara.
Tragically, it was too late for Zahara and she died when she arrived. Abdul has already lost two other children, Yusuf is his only remaining family.
“I don’t know if he will live. I have lost everything else, first my livestock, then my wife,” he said.
“I loved my wife, she was my life. She was everything.”
A nurse looks around one of the crowded rooms in the clinic. People have moved to Sool in desperate search of water and food.
Over 1.1 million people have now been forced to flee their homes in Somalia.
Sickness and diarrhoea spread easily when people live in unsanitary conditions. People are arriving at this clinic all the time.
Women and children are the most affected – the maternal mortality ratio for Somalia is among the highest in the world at 732 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
A worried mother watches over her child.
Patients are given rehydration sachets and glucose to treat sickness and diarrhoea. Suffering from malnutrion, skin hangs lose from their bones.
One child is too weak for the glucose drip to be inserted and nurses struggle to find a vein.
Over 363,000 children in Somalia are acutely malnourished.
A man cleans people’s shoes with chlorine as they leave the clinic to prevent the spread of infection. More than 25,000 people have contacted cholera across Somalia since the start of this year.
The name of this village, Golijano, translates from Somali as ‘mountain of heaven’, but there is nothing heavenly about the village’s current crisis.
In parts of Somaliland there has been a nearly complete harvest failure. The situation is critical.
Many families are down to one meal every two days. What little people have to eat is often not diverse enough to provide the quality and balanced diets people need.