Islamic Relief aid worker Charles Njanga reports from Somaliland on the devastating impacts of the drought.
From a distance, it looks like a small town. As we get closer, I see it consists of many small round huts, made from sticks, thatched grass and pieces of cloth. This is the Ununle settlement in Burao district in the Togdheer region of Somaliland.
Three months ago, this settlement did not exist. Everyone living here has been forced from their homes by the drought that has struck Somaliland, a disaster which is also devastating communities in neighboring Kenya.
Over 4.9 million people in Somaliland are thought to be going hungry or are directly affected by the drought. In February, national authorities called for urgent humanitarian assistance as more than 1.5 million people were in grave need.
The drought has severely affected more than 100 villages across five regions. Some 13 districts are affected: Lughaya, Zeila, Berbera, Sheik, Burao, Odwayne, Ainabo, Lasanod, Talex, Garadag, Elafweyn, Erigavo and Badhan. Many were already very vulnerable after a tropical cyclone last year, and drought in 2016-17.
Dire conditions in the camp
In Ununule, I meet deputy camp leader, Safia Hassan Ibrahim, who explains that the last drought decimated her family’s livelihood:
“We had 572 goats and sheep, and 32 camels,” says the mother-of-seven. “We lost almost all the animals and we used the ones that remained for food.”
Safia’s story is sadly all too common, and for many families this latest drought has proven too much to withstand. According to Safia, there are an about 500 families in Ununule – and more stream into the camp every day.
Conditions in Ununule are dire, with no services being provided.
“We have not received any support from any organisation except the Government of Somaliland – they provided water,” explains Safia. The five trucks of water provided ran out in five days.
Uprooted from village to village
Kilometers away in Garaaca village, in the Lughaya district, I meet Khatra Mahamud Elmi. She is busy at her small tea shop when she hears a truck approaching. Khatra picks up some empty jerrycans and takes them to where the truck has stopped.
People in the village each receive 15 litres of water per day. Trucking in water to drought-stricken communities is part of the emergency response which Islamic Relief is delivering through the START Network Fund. This emergency project is being implemented by Islamic Relief Somalia through the Somaliland Field Office.
Khatra tells me she and her family have been uprooted multiple times by natural disasters:
“We moved from our village because of water shortages. Then after Cyclone Sagar last year we had to move to Quraca. Now we have had to move again,” she explains.
Islamic Relief is helping more than 800 families in the Lughaya, and Zeila districts with money to meet their basic needs. Much needed items such as jerrycans, buckets, mosquito nets and sleeping mats have also been given to over 500 households.
Dried up livelihoods
Islamic Relief is on the ground in Somaliland, working to ease the suffering caused by the drought. We see the impact of water and food shortages, including on livelihoods. The farming communities are struggling to get by as their livestock and crops die.
In Degmo Laqas village, I meet Mahdi Habid Gedi as he leads his donkey, laden with jerrycans, to a waterpoint installed by Islamic Relief. Unlike most people in many parts of Somaliland, 62-year-old Mahdi farms livestock as well as crops such as maize, sorghum tomatoes, onions and simsim, sesame oil. He cannot farm during the drought.
“We just farm when there is rain. We request more water or increased water supply, so we can farm, we need water piped from the boreholes to the farms,” he says.
Islamic Relief is working to help people like Safia, Khatra and Mahdi. We’re delivering emergency relief in Somaliland and Kenya, but the situation is worsening as the drought continues, leaving many in dire need of water.