The following is an excerpt from an article posted on The Guardian in July 2019:
“The climate emergency is wreaking havoc across the world, and it is the poorest countries that bear the brunt of the crisis. In Somalia, where I am acting country director for the aid agency Islamic Relief, the population is currently experiencing a drought that could threatenthe lives or livelihoods of more than two million people by the end of the summer, according to the UN.
The climate has been wreaking havoc on Somalia’s seasons. Ordinarily there are four: the main 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 rains for their crops and livestock. Last year, these people were set back when the deyr season produced less rain than usual. And again this year the gu rains almost 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 pushing communities in the worst-affected areas into food insecurity.
In recent years, the frequency and duration of these dry spells has increased. As it does so, the capacity of people to resist these shocks decreases. Every drought depletes their assets: their animals will die, their crops will fail, they will have nothing to sell and next season they won’t have money to buy seeds to plant again. In desperation, pastoralists sell their animals at a giveaway price, 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 point they begin to flee and become displaced, often in informal camps near urban settlements.
I recently saw how extreme weather can throw the delicate lives of the most vulnerable off-kilter. Our staff met Geelo Ahmed Osman, a mother of five from Ainabo district, Somaliland, in an informal camp for internally displaced people (IDPs), where she now lives. She has been entrusted with a great deal of responsibility. Four of her five children are disabled 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.