With drought everywhere, there is nowhere to go

 Somalia
 Emergency Response
 20th Mar 2017

“This is the worst drought we have ever experienced. Before, we have always been able to go somewhere to get food and water, but now the whole country is affected.”

Nura Abdi Nuur, a mother of seven children aged eight months to thirty years, looks worn but determined. She holds her youngest child in one arm, using her other hand to shield it from the blasting sun.

Until four months ago, the family lived as pastoralists keeping more than 200 goats and other livestock in a remote mountainous area of Somaliland.

Then in late 2015, when the usual dry season was supposed to end, the Dayr rain never came. Nor was there any rain during the 2016 Gu, the main rainy season usually staring in late March and lasting until June. The next Dayr also failed. By the end of 2016, the family was facing starvation.

“Our problems started more than a year ago. For a while we had a little to drink, but then we had nothing. In the mountains, there was no water, food or any help, so we wanted to get closer to a road. Most of our livestock had died”, she recounts.

“This is the worst drought we have ever experienced. Before, we have always been able to go somewhere to get food and water, but now the whole country is affected.”

Walked 90 kilometers 

At the road, they managed to get transport for the children to an impromptu camp with other drought-stricken families set up by a water source where assistance was available. The grown-ups had to walk the 90 kilometers on foot.

While the camp offers basic relief to people who have lost everything, life is still a struggle. Families live in small huts made of sticks and whatever sheeting they can find. Due to malnutrition, unhygienic living conditions and the increasing salinity of water from the drying well, diseases such as influenza and stomach problems are common. Nura tells us that several of her children have coughs and diarrhea.

“You can see how it is: No food, no water, no income – but now we have started receiving cash for work from CARE, which we will use to buy food and soft water. Before CARE arrived one month ago, there was no help, and we ate only one meal a day, in the evening”, she explains.

Husband stayed behind

With CARE’s cash-for-work project, participants earn $100 for 20 days of flexible work hours to clean a water stream of trash and animal excrements so that it can provide water clean enough for livestock to drink. Some 13,000 people are employed by similar CARE projects across Sanaag and Sool, two of the regions hardest hit by the drought in Somaliland.

Most of those working to clean the water stream are women, as their husbands have either stayed to look after remaining livestock or they have migrated further away in search of work. Nura’s husband stayed behind in the mountains.

“Life is more difficult without my husband and I feel sad that we are separated, but he had to look after what little we had left”, she explains.

Obviously, Nura is hoping that the seasonal April rain will come, but she is also worried: “If it rains, the water will come right through our shelter. We have no plastic sheeting.”


By Anders Nordstoga, CARE communications officer

Find out more about our work in Somalia here.

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