Caught between drought and violence in the Horn of Africa

Barren barren plains. This is what most of the Horn of Africa looks like now that it has rained less than necessary for four straight seasons. Crops have failed dramatically, livestock have died, and more than 14 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are starving. With all kinds of complicated conflicts, the situation seems more hopeless than ever and many people are on the run. How do you live in a country where nothing grows? Four people say.

Fadomo: My daughter is completely bloated

Fadumo Ali is from Somalia and has three children. Her daughter, Ikran Abdelaziz, was severely malnourished and edematous. She needed medical attention, that was obvious. So Fadomo and her children traveled to the hospital for three days and two nights. “My daughter was completely bloated,” Fadomo says. She stays with the girl while she is receiving treatment. Fortunately, her condition is improving rapidly at the Kismayo Center to stabilize. “She’s still a little tired, still swollen, but the swelling is less severe than it used to be. She’s doing a much better job,” Fadomo says with satisfaction.

Fadomo’s daughter is one of the many severely malnourished children in Somalia. “In the area where I come from, there is only hunger. There has been no rain for a long time. People are fleeing because of hunger. They have nothing left. They can no longer go about their daily lives.”

Fadumo Ali and her daughter

Ahmed: We lost 50 out of 70 camels

Because of the constant drought, many herders in the Horn of Africa no longer have food for their livestock. There are conflicts in more fertile areas, and as a result, shepherds simply cannot graze their livestock elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of animals have already died, and those numbers are rising rapidly.

Ahmed Mahmoud is one of the herdsmen who saw his cattle dying: “Because of the drought, we lost 50 of the 70 camels we had. Some of the shepherds even lost all their cattle. I know a man who had a lot of animals, different kinds, and they all died. Now he sits aimlessly Waiting for what’s to come.”

Ahmed and the other shepherds are doing everything they can to weather the dry seasons. “This is our reality, we are trying to survive. Droughts follow each other in quick succession. When we have a dry season, we try to be brave. We feed our animals when we can. We also ask people to feed us. But there is no food.” The land is bone dry. Many people who lost their animals have become refugees.”

Ahmed Mahmoud with the remaining camels

Wizirou: “Conflicts and drought have affected us badly”

Drought is not the only cause of hunger in the Horn of Africa. Conflicts also make it difficult to continue producing food. The northern Tigray region of Ethiopia has been a battleground since 2020. One million people have fled the violence. Those who remain are having difficulty obtaining the seeds and fertilizers needed to grow crops. There is a huge shortage of food.

Wiziru Harigo Techal lives in the area: “The conflicts in our area and the constant drought have affected our community severely. Because of the conflicts, we all had to leave our homes without being able to take anything of value with us. All the children and women are hiding in the mountains.”

To get food, they grow their own food. But this is not easy. That’s why they get fertilizer from the Red Cross. “For our food supply, we receive fertilizers for the earth from the Red Cross, and we are very happy about that. Without fertilizers we cannot grow crops and we are wasted.”

Wiziru Harjo Techal in Ethiopia

Muhammad: “If we lose our animals, we lose them too.”

Today’s drought is not the first natural disaster in Somalia. More than 30 climate-related disasters have hit the country since 1990, including droughts, floods and locust plagues. This represents a threefold increase over the past two decades.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for herders to keep their livestock alive. There is little room for recovery from a previous disaster. Sheep herder Muhammad Hassan Gur also noted that: “The last drought, which started in 2021, killed the last of our animals. During previous droughts, many of our animals recovered, but they died from other factors. Like a locust plague. Locusts ate our crops. Our animals died because we We can no longer feed her. We only have 50 animals left. Of those, 30 died from the torrential rains that followed, leaving only 20.”

People in rural Somalia depend on their animals. They provide not only food, but also income. Rural people depend on animals. If we lose our animals, we are lost, too. If your animals die, you die with them.”

Cartoon of four victims of severe drought and ongoing conflict in the Horn of Africa.
Mohamed Hassan Jor

14 million more…

More than 14 million people in the Horn of Africa, like Fadomo and Mohamed, are burdened with a great deal of uncertainty: will there be enough food for the family tomorrow? The Red Cross helps them with food, water and medical aid. Support our aid for the Horn of Africa and donate to Jiro 6251 (The account number is in IBAN format NL58INGB0000006251

Leave a Comment