Increasingly severe and frequent shortages are threatening the lives of millions of Somalis, says Mustapha Tahir of Islamic Relief
The climate emergency is wreaking desolation across the world, and it is the poorest countries that bear the brunt of the crisis. In Somalia, where I am behaving country lead for the aid agency Islamic Relief, the population is currently experiencing a drought that could threatenthe lives or supports of more than two million people by the end of the summer, according to the UN.
The climate has been inflicting ravage on Somalia’s seasons. Ordinarily there are four: the primary rainy season between April and June( gu ), the second rainy season between October and December( deyr ), and the dry seasons that follow each of them. Two-thirds of the country’s population live in rural areas and are completely dependent on the rainfalls for their crops and sheep. Last-place time, these people were set back when the deyr season produced less sprinkle than customary. And again this year the gu sprinkles virtually failed, eventually arriving in tiny pockets of the country too little, too late. This has led to widespread crop failure, and a decline in livestock production, rapidly propagandizing communities in the worst-affected areas into food insecurity.
In recent years, the frequency and period of these dry spells has increased. As it done likewise, the capacity of people to withstand these offends abates. Every drought saps their assets: their animals will die, their pastures will flunk, they will have nothing to sell and next season they won’t have money to buy grains to flower again. In desperation, pastoralists sell their animals at a giveaway toll, leaving them even more vulnerable. Doing so significantly reduces their number of cattle to below the minimum threshold required to continue raising livestock. At this object they begin to flee and become dispossessed, often following informal camps near city settlements.
I recently saw how extreme weather can throw the tender lives of the most vulnerable off-kilter. Our staff convened Geelo Ahmed Osman, a mother of five from Ainabo district, Somaliland, in an informal clique for displaced persons( IDPs ), where she now lives. She has been entrusted with a great deal of responsibility. Four of her five children are incapacitated with conditions so severe they cannot move without assistance- and her fifth is completely emaciated with malnourishment. Because her husband had a stroke last year, she is now the breadwinner for the entire household.
Two years ago, another drought reached Osman and her family hard-bitten. Her household, who is currently pastoralists, lost all their swine. In the two years since, they have been entirely reliant on handouts from their relatives, and when their relatives could no longer offer to support them, they moved to the outskirts of Ainabo district and connected an informal IDP settlement in the hope that they will get assistance from facilitate organisations.
The current drought has led to more and more people like Geelo Ahmed Osman, displaced from their homes and reliant on support from the international community. About half of the country’s population is in need of emergency assistance. If they don’t receive this, we are very likely to see a full-scale famine before the end of the year. Lack of sea does not just have nutritional inferences: it spreads infection. If people don’t have water to washing at crucial time, they can’t stem the spread of illnes, which becomes inevitable in crowded IDP camps. Things such as diarrhoea, if untreated, can be fatal to children.
Aid enterprises need more funding, and not just for immediate assistance. With the environment crisis increasing these kinds of happenings in frequency and intensity, we could be in this exact same situation next year, its first year after, and on and on. So while the first phase of involvement should be emergency response, we then need to build resilience so beings are better prepared for the future and not reliant on handouts from the international community.
The happy thing is that various regions of the world emergencies are on the increase: from the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen to destroying natural disasters such as Cyclone Idai in south-east Africa. The environment crisis will exclusively draw more disaster. But at the moment, the attention, funding and the help of the international community is not there. It is crucial that, in our unstable and increasingly shaky nature, Somalia is not left behind.
* Mustapha Tahir is acting country lead for Islamic Relief in Somalia