Hunger crisis: ′if we don′t help the people here, they will die′ | Africa | DW | 11.05.2017
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Horn of Africa

Hunger crisis: 'if we don't help the people here, they will die'

The drought facing several African countries is escalating, about 20 million people need food aid. The situation is especially dire in the Somaliland and Puntland regions in the Horn of Africa. Arndt Pelter reports.

Ahmed Hurre Diiriye is standing on a dried up land close to the small town of Dilla in Western Somaliland. The head of a local drought committee points to a dozen dead goats on the ground. Some carcasses have started to rot.

"If we don't help the people here, they will die as well," Diiriye said.

The goats belonged to Sahra Hwadle Haji. "I came here five months ago. I've fled together with my family and my cattle to escape from the drought in the eastern region. I used to have 500 cattle, now I only have 30 left," the 45-year old told DW.

Somaliland is just one of the regions in the Horn of Africa that's been battling famine. In 1991, the former British colony declared independence from Somalia, but the small state is still not recognized by the international community. Somalialand depends on the money it gets from the Somali diaspora. Without the money the hunger crisis would probably be even worse.

"The people here, along with their cattle, lack water, food, shelter, medicine. If we can't provide them with these necessities soon, the number of victims will rise," Diirye added.

Predictable famine

Experts have seen the famine coming for a long time. "In September, October 2016, we realized this is the third consecutive failed rains," said Raheel Chaudhary, Country Director for aid organization CARE in Somalia.

Even though it's normal to have a drought in Somalia once in a while, he said come January the real impact started to show.

"One in two Somalis are in food crisis and need support," he added. 

Sara Hawadle in drought-stricken Somaliland (photo: Arndt Peltner)

Sara Hawadle Haji who fled from the eastern region has lost most of her cattle

The signs of hunger have also reached Somalialand's capital Hargeisa. Dozens of women with their children have come to a small health center to be seen by nurses.

More and more mothers come here with their malnourished children. Some 130 have shown up already and the number is steadily rising. Add to that, several pregnant women are also suffering from malnourishment.

The little ones are fed cookies high in fiber, but that is no longer sufficient, says Fatima Abdi who heads the health center. It's not only the children who are malnourished. But there are not enough supplies to also help feed the other family members.

Nomads lost their cattle

The situation is not much different in Puntland, a region that split from Somalia in 1998. The small town of Dangorayo lies some 800 kilometers (about 500 miles) east of Hargeisa. From there, the village Uskure is another 40 kilometers away, where 200 nomad families have sought shelter.

Usually they would roam the region with their cattle, but now they are stuck in the middle of nowhere. They depend on aid since most of their cattle have died.

They've built huts from tree branches, canvases and blankets. There is no running water or electricity.

"The people have come here to find support," says Abdi Hassi, a village elder. "We are in dire need."

Dead goats in drought-stricken Somaliland (photo: Arndt Peltner)

Many nomads have lost their cattle due to the drought

Medina Ahmed sits in front of her hut in Uskure and weaves a basket. The mother of four says there is not enough to eat. Everyone tries to share the little they have with their neighbors. Still, it's nowhere near enough.

She says they are desperately waiting for rain since that's their only hope. They get food and water rations once a month. Each person is entitled to 2.5 liters (0.66 gallons) of water.

Worst drought in decades

Many people elsewhere are even worse off. The manager of Puntland's Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Agency, Ahmed Abdullahi Abdirahman, says tens of thousands of households are in need of aid deliveries. Diseases spread like wildfire, even cholera outbreaks have been reported.

"The elders told us this is the worst drought in 50 years," he said. "There is no pasture for livestock and people cannot sell their livestock, because there is no sellable livestock."

The drought in 2011 that killed more than 200,000 people was limited to a few regions in Somalia. But now, all of Somalia is affected by the crisis. Half of Somalia's population is suffering from hunger.


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