Somalia: Family fights to survive after drought kills grandson, 1,100 goats and sheep

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Bile Abdi’s grandson died from a lack of water, and the larger family saw more than 1,100 of their goats and sheep perish, the devastating outcome of the drought crippling families across Somalia.

“I am 75 years old. I have not heard of or seen such a severe drought,” said Abdi.

While dry spells are not new in Somalia, a failed rainy season last year has exacerbated the conditions on the ground, and now fears of a period of severe hunger are rippling through the region, including in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

Abdi and his extended family are seeking refuge – including water and viable grazing land -- in Tukaraq, 150 kilometres from their home. Like many other drought-affected families across Somalia, their situation is getting desperate.

“This drought is different from the previous droughts. People from all over do not have anywhere to escape to and some came here,” explains Abdi.

Most people in Somalia are pastoralists who depend on their livestock for survival. The drought conditions have forced these communities to travel long distances in search of water and pasture.

Abdi recounts his family’s journey. “Initially we moved to the Ethiopian border. While there the livestock we had with us fell sick. We had travelled with 1,200 goats and sheep. Only 60 goats and sheep survived. They are of no use. They cannot be slaughtered. The surviving animals were taken away to the east for pasture.”

Pedram Yazdi, a delegate with the International Committee of the Red Cross, said residents in search of food and water are being forced to leave some family members behind who are too weak to move.

“They are coming here and what I saw also is that people are sharing their food with the animals and with their camels,” said Yazdi..

The journey that these families have to take are not easy and some have not just lost their livestock but close family members as well.”

“We lost a grandson,” says Abdi. “He’s gone! He died while on our way here. Thirst and dehydration killed him.”

Abdi and his family are among many others who have sought refuge in Tukarak village. There are temporary shelters surrounding the village.

Ahmed Artan, an ICRC field staffer in charge of distributions of assistance in the region, explains the organisation’s emergency response, “There are three categories of people here. The people from the host communities, IDPs, and the destitute who’ve lost their livestock.”

“It’s a heavy burden and they cannot support everyone,” Abdi said of his Tukaraq hosts. “But, we are alive because they gave us water and anything they could help us with.”

As part of it its response to the severe drought in Somalia, the ICRC on Feb. 14 began a series of food distributions starting in locations across northern Somalia that will continue also in South-Central, including in areas affected by conflict.

“We will carry on till the end of the month and we’ll cover 36 areas, places where there are the destitute, host communities and vulnerable people who don’t have food,” Artan said.

“The people who are receiving food are among the 240,000 people that the ICRC is assisting due to the drought. Some of them were displaced and came here searching for grazing lands and water. Unfortunately, even here the drought is very harsh,” Yazdi said.

For further information, please contact:

Jason Straziuso, ICRC Nairobi: +254 733 622 026

Pedram Yazdi, ICRC Nairobi: + 254 700 888 131

Aurelie Lachant, ICRC Geneva: +41 79 244 64 05

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