The worst drought in 40 years has a cruel grip on Somalia. A struggling young government and militant violence have compounded to bring crisis to 6.6 million lives. The town of Baidoa is facing some of the harshest conditions. Surrounded by territory controlled by al-Shabaab militants and amid ongoing attacks, 160,000 people have had to leave their farms and are surviving in camps where hunger, thirst and cholera await them.
The numbers are huge – one in six people in Somalia displaced as a result of conflict, drought and the resultant food crisis. Humanitarian assistance in the country is needed by 6.6 million. Somalia is one of four countries currently in the grip of hunger along with Yemen, South Sudan and Nigeria.
Two seasons of failed rains and insecurity have pushed 145,000 people from rural areas into Baidoa, the provincial capital of the Bay region, in the country’s south west. Many have set up home at Muuri camp, gathering together in the hope food and water will reach them.
Many Somalis in Baidoa say this drought is worse than the one in 2011, when famine was declared in parts of the country and more than 240,000 people died. A far lower death toll this time shows Somalia has been making progress against the odds – and the changing climate. ‘I have two children and I live with my husband, we have been here in this camp for three months. We had to come here when our savings finished and our goats died. My family have always been farmers,’ says Kaltun Aliyow Mumin, 28, at Dusta camp in Baidoa.
Reports say that the Islamist group al-Shabaab has banned aid from reaching the regions it controls. Violence is compounding the humanitarian situation. Al-Shabaab control much of the countryside and have told Somalis they will be punished for contacting humanitarian organisations. Isaak Hassan’s seven-month-old daughter, Nadifo, is malnourished. They now live at Dusta camp.
About 3.2 million people are on the brink of starvation in Somalia. Thirteen-year-old Abshivay Hussein Maalin is suffering from malnutrition. He is living in Muuri IDP camp in Baidoa. Food packages are reaching those who can escape militia-controlled areas. The NGO Mercy Corps is feeding vulnerable families in Baidoa. The packages include the plainest of sustenance – rice, flour, oil, beans, sugar, tea and dates. People are never quite sure when the next one might come and eke out what they have.
The drought means severe water shortages, tripling the price of a barrel of water (about 200 litres) to $15, prices beyond the reach of ordinary people in Somalia. The drought means severe water shortages, tripling the price of a barrel of water (about 200 litres) to $15, prices beyond the reach of ordinary people in Somalia. Dirty and contaminated pools of water bring disease and harbour infections.