Severe Drought in South and Central Somalia
After 20 years of intermittent conflict, the majority of Somalis live in extreme poverty, most surviving on subsistence farming, pastoralism and remittances sent by their family members who live in the western world. The already uncertain food security and health situation in Somalia have been exacerbated by the drought affecting Eastern Africa.
A large number of people and thousands of livestock are believed to have died from hunger and thirst since the drought began in late 2010. Population, which is already vulnerable following years of displacement, poverty and the lack of the most basic services, is facing increased pressure as the situation continues to deteriorate.
The worst affected regions include Gedo, Hiiraan, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle, Galgaduud, Juba, Bay and Bakool. In Gedo, the situation is critical; water, food assistance and health are the priority needs for the drought-affected population in the region. Media and field reports confirm that people and their animals have started dying. Many drought-affected families have moved nearer to urban centres like Luuq and Bardheere. Some families have started selling their assets – particularly in Garbahareey district – to get money for transport to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Worst time ever
Shortage of water and pasture for the livestock are the main problems facing the pastoralist communities in the country. Food production has also been drastically reduced and this has lead to increased food prices, which will subsequently lead to an increased number of food insecure populations in Somalia. According to the results of a country-wide assessment carried out by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), released 28 January 2011, some 2.4 million people are currently living under humanitarian emergency and acute food and livelihoods crisis in the country, up from the two million people for last year (for more details, http://www.fsnau.org ).
War has recently escalated in many regions in South and Central Somalia. Since the beginning of February, 2011, one of the worst places is the town of Bula-Hawo at the border of Somalia/Kenya/Ethiopia. This town, which is one of the most populated towns in Gedo with more than 250.000 inhabitants, is now a deserted place apart from fighting militants.
All civilians fled due to the ten days continued fighting between Al-Shabab on one side and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ahlu-Sunna backed by Ethiopian and Kenyan forces on the other side. Some civilians fled to the border town of Mandera in Kenya, while others are internally displaced in the rural areas within the Gedo region. These IDPs have barely any water and food due to the severe drought. People of Gedo are now at their worst time ever.
In addition to fighting and drought, access to humanitarian operations and the mobility of humanitarian workers has been severely restricted. These negative developments in the first quarter of the year 2011 have unfolded in the context of a long-standing humanitarian emergency and an over twenty-year absence of effective central government and basic social services.
Children attend school instead of joining militant groups
Since 1998, Gannaane, a NGO based in Finland, together with its local partner Action for Relief & Development (ARD) in Somalia, has been rehabilitating schools in the El- Adde area in Gedo and supporting education in both primary and secondary schools by, for example, providing school learning materials as well as contributing to staff salaries.
The project has been funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland since 2006. Students are expected to pay 1.5 USD school fee per month. The idea is to raise a minimum revenue threshold to maintain basic school services and to pay the salaries of the teaching staff. The proposal has been welcomed also by the regional aid agencies.
In 2010, there were a total of 604 pupils in both the primary and secondary schools. The schools have in total 26 teaching staff and five auxiliary staff. The number of students and staff has been steadily increasing due to the population increase in the El-Adde district. Moreover, Somali parents have realised the importance of child education. As a result, many children attend school instead of joining militant groups such as al-Shabab. Some of the students who completed their studies from El-Adde went on to further their education in the universities of Uganda, Malaysia, Yemen, Sudan, China and Pakistan.
No fighting has taken place in our program area, but drought has impacted the education program. People have become stressed with their hard living conditions that have forced some families to move from their houses to IDP camps in the region or refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. As a result, ARD and the school board have decided not to impose the school fee until the drought situation improves. The decision was taken after some students complained about the lack of money and planned to drop out of school.
Since 2009 until early 2010, we organized also adult education for women to improve their life and fight the illiteracy. Women attended evening classes for writing and basic mathematics skills. Teachers of the adult programme were high school teachers and they worked voluntarily.
However, from mid-2010 onwards, this adult education for women unfortunately stopped due to the severity of the drought. In the future, we are planning to restart the women’s empowerment program and advance it by hiring qualified teachers as well as providing adequate classrooms and teaching materials.
Harsh drought has caused humanitarian crisis and civilians in South and Central Somalia in particular are in need of emergency aid for water. Coping mechanisms of the population have been weakened by persistent wars and environmental changes, resulting in extreme poverty. Moreover, international aid activity in the region due to the political unrest is limited. Hence, local organizations such as ARD could be an alternative for assisting in international aid operations. We appeal to the international community for urgent humanitarian aid to provide food, water and shelter for these vulnerable communities.
Mohamoud H. Elmi, Executive Director
Action for Relief & Development (ARD)
Adan Abdi, Chairman