Families fighting for their lives in drought-ravaged Somalia

Mothers like Hadija and Gaalo and their children have faced unimaginable hardships as they struggle to survive in a region where unrelenting drought has put millions at risk of starvation.

By Amanda Koech, World Vision International. Photos by Jon Warren.
Published September 9, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

Hadija’s story

Hadija Hassan Abdi arrived completely exhausted in Puntland, a region of northeastern Somalia. The mother of seven children told her story from a just-completed shelter made of twigs and a few scraps of old clothes she brought with her.

“After the drought decimated our maize crop, I could not get food for my children, so I decided to leave,” she says.

Baidoa, the place Hadija and her family fled, has not received rains for two consecutive seasons.

The area has also been affected by continuous conflict that has seen aid agencies — including World Vision — suspended from operating in the area.

The local authorities of the host towns in Puntland are overwhelmed. New arrivals are stretching them even further. The mayor of Burtinle, where Hadija is located, says that the resident community and displaced people urgently need additional health services, nutrition programs, and water and sanitation services.

Gaalo’s story

Gaalo Adan Ali, a mother of nine, arrived in Garowe, the regional capital, in late July. She lost two children along the way due to starvation. She is from Quansadhere, where she left her husband nursing a snake bite wound. He could not make the journey because he was very weak and in pain.

“I still experience nightmares when I remember the two children I lost on the way. I was also worried about my pregnancy during the journey,” Gaalo says.

Gaalo cradles her son, Khaleed, praying that he won't die next. She has lost two children this month.It took Gaalo and her family 15 days and a combination of walking and riding in vehicles to arrive in Garowe. Now dependent on scarce, menial domestic jobs, she struggles to feed her large family.

Gaalo’s nightmares are not about to be over. Her 6-year-old son, Khaleed Ibrahim Ahmed, is severely dehydrated from diarrhea and vomiting. She says she does not have money to take him for treatment.

“I used the little I had to treat the youngest child of measles,” says Gaalo.

World Vision staff members visited little Khaleed and treated him immediately. Without early treatment, children suffering from diarrhea and vomiting may die within hours. Khaleed was placed on nutrition supplements for his malnutrition as well.

World Vision has been assisting displaced people in these host communities in Puntland since the escalation of the drought in March. Thousands of malnourished children have received nutritious supplements through the community-based malnutrition management program.

Farmers have also been benefiting through rehabilitation of water catchments and dams. As the drought continues to displace more people, World Vision is scaling up its response to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of people in need.

Much of Puntland lacks sources of clean drinking water. People rely mostly on trapped rainwater stored in plastered pits in the ground. The last rain season performed poorly, and most water storage areas are quickly running dry.

World Vision plans to sink water wells in different areas to address water problems on a more permanent basis. The wells are expected to serve the water needs of more than 100,000 people.

The drought affecting the Horn of Africa has affected more than 3.8 million Somalis. That number is expected to rise.

Two ways you can help

Pray for children and families affected by this severe drought and the resulting food crisis. Pray that aid organizations like World Vision would gain access to those who need help the most.

Make a one-time gift to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will multiply five times to help provide emergency food, healthcare, and other critical assistance to this suffering part of the world.