“In my life I have never experienced such a drought. It is an extremely unkind drought. It has killed all animals.”
Last year, Sirad Umar Bayr (60) and her family had more than a hundred goats and other livestock. The animals were their only livelihood and the resource upon which the depended to survive in the beautiful but harsh landscape of the Horn of Africa highland.
By January 2017, after three seasons of failed rain, despite their best effort to keep them alive, most of the livestock were dead. Without food or water, they had to leave to survive. It is a commonly expressed sentiment among pastoralists in Somalia that when my last animal dies, I die. For all too many, it is a merciless fact of life.
“When the drought hit us, as a family we poured all our efforts into preserving the few goats we had, which put us through a lot of hardship”, recounts Sirad.
All livestock lost
After a relatively short but arduous journey of 15 kilometers on foot, the large family of Sirad’s seven children and their children joined hundreds of other displaced households in an impromptu camp around a shallow well of barely drinkable water in the Sanaag region of Somaliland.
“We had lost our camels, which were our only means of transportation. We were left with only a few weak goats. So we carried our possessions on our backs. We faced a lot of difficulties on the journey and we lost our remaining livestock on the way. We had no farm. Our livelihood was our livestock and they no longer exist”, she says.
“In my life, I have never experienced such a severe drought. It is an extremely unkind drought. It has killed all animals, including camels, donkeys, and goats.”
Desperate need for help
CARE has supported the Bayr family and others in the camp with vouchers to buy food. As one of the first and few aid organizations in the area, CARE is working to scale up the emergency response and provide more support for thousands of affected families. Water and shelter are among the most urgent needs. Large families share small huts made of sticks and whatever sheeting they can find. As the shallow well is drying out, the water’s increasing salinity is particularly unhealthy for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
“Several of the children are sleeping now because they have stomach ache or recovering from diarrhea”, Sidar tells us, pointing towards a hut that must feel like an oven in the blasting sun.
“We came here for water and it is a very scarce resource here. We have to stand hours in queue to get water from the well. All I can say now is, you see our situation, and we need any help provided to us as soon as possible. We are in a severe drought and we desperately need help”, she pleads.
“We need shelter. People from other affected areas also fled to here. They have no shelter here and live under trees.”
As we are about to leave the camp, Sidar adds a disturbing fact.
“The people you see here now are the strongest ones, who are capable of walking. The weak ones had to stay behind.”
By Anders Nordstoga, CARE communications officer
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