Tens of Thousands of Drought-Stricken Families in Somalia Forced to Flee Their Homes in Search of Food and Water

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Four-year-old Basra* fled her home with her mom and siblings in search of fertile ground, and have ended up in an informal camp in Bohol-Olodley. Photo Credit: Tom Arup/Save the Children

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (February 10, 2017) — Tens of thousands of families are abandoning their homes across drought-stricken Somalia in search of food, water and viable grazing land amid alarming indications of the breadth of the food crisis gripping the nation.

Save the Children and local government authorities are reporting that every day for the last six weeks hundreds of trucks have been arriving in the coastal regions of Puntland, carrying families and their livestock from as far as Somaliland, simply because they have heard there had been some fleeting rain just before Christmas.

Further South, in South Central Somalia, the UN is reporting many Somalis are heading in the other direction, with more than 100 drought-stricken refugees crossing the Ethiopian border into Dollo Ado camp each day since the start of January – a rate not seen in four years.

Across Puntland, which is suffering the worst drought the region has seen since 1950, newly internally displaced people who have lost their livestock are gathering in small informal camps looking for water, food and aid. But families are struggling to cope due to soaring water and food prices.

"The movement of people across Somalia and Somaliland, and over the border into Ethiopia, is a sign that Somalia’s proud rural families are on the brink," said Save the Children Somalia Country Director, Hassan Noor Saadi.

"Conditions are the driest they’ve been in decades and the landscape is peppered with goat carcasses. In some places, we’re now seeing dead camels – normally a grim precursor to a loss in human life. More than 360,000 children under five are already acutely malnourished, including 71,000 severe cases who are at risk of death."

"We saw similar signs in 2011, but the world did not act quickly enough – and more than a quarter million Somalis died from famine. We cannot let that happen again."

Deeqa,* 37, who is living in a small camp with four of her seven children near Bohol-Olodley in Puntland, said she had travelled to the region to find green pastures for their livestock. But now 90 percent of their camels, goats and cows have died. There is no school for her children to go to, and she says many of the children in the informal camp where they are living are now sick.

"If you have lost your livestock and you are not staying in big town, how will you survive? As long as you are alive, you are running for your life," she said. "If it doesn’t rain, who is going to be alive? Life will be gone."

Amina,* 38, travelled with her children from near Garowe to the same area, also seeking more fertile ground. She said just 50 of the family’s 400 livestock remain – yet they are too weak to produce to milk.

"I have never seen or heard of a drought of this size. I could never have imagined something like this in my mind," she said.

More than 6 million people, half of them children, are now in need of urgent life-saving assistance across Somaliland, Puntland and South Central Somalia.

With poor seasonal rains forecast for the coming months, Somalia stands on the brink of famine unless critical funds are made available to provide aid, water and medicine to reach the most vulnerable, especially children.

Save the Children is responding to the forced migration of families by deploying mobile health units and scaling-up its response in health clinics it supports across Puntland, screening for and treating malnutrition among children, waterborne diseases and other serious health concerns. The humanitarian organization is also trucking water into parched communities across Somalia and Somaliland, and providing food vouchers and cash transfers so that families can get enough to eat.

Individuals can learn more and support this work by visiting SavetheChildren.org/Africa-Crisis.

*Identities have been changed for security reasons.

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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