Drought, hunger push Somalis to flee
Her eyes glued to the feeble movements of her malnourished baby with protruding ribs and sunken eyes, Fadumo Abdi Ibrahim struggled to hold back her tears in the stifling and crowded feeding centre in Somalia’s capital. She waved a scrap of fabric over him to create a current of air.
She is one of thousands of desperate people streaming into Somalia’s capital seeking food as a result a prolonged drought, overwhelming local and international aid agencies. The Somali government warns of a looming famine.
An estimated 5 million Somalis, out of population of 10 million, need humanitarian assistance, according to the UN humanitarian office. About 363,000 acutely malnourished children “need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished,” said the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network.
Ibrahim carried her 9-monthold boy, Ali Hassan, to Mogadishu 10 days ago. A mother of five, she is a proud farmer who grew maize (corn) on her family’s farm in Toratorow, an agricultural town in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, before rainy seasons failed three times over a two-year period.
“We were not able to get anything to eat, not even water — the entire environment is so parched,” she said, cradling her son’s bony legs and waving away flies from his face. She said she left to seek food for her baby, leaving her four older children with their father on the farm. She said the kids would not have been able to survive the trek.
Ibrahim’s journey to Mogadishu wasn’t easy. She and other families hiked all day and night over 30 kilometres (nearly 20 miles) across the dry landscape. Hundreds of hungry families are making the trip to seek food distribution in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.
“We found several bodies of children on the road,” she said, describing how mothers were too weak to carry the little corpses.
Fears are rising of a full-blown famine in Somalia. Large-scale aid is needed to avert an imminent disaster, according to the Somali government.
“The dire situation calls for international collaboration and regional partnership between governments, civil society, aid organizations, business and international donors,” said the government this month encouraging regional co-operation to combat the effects of the drought.
Somalia’s ongoing conflict against the Islamic extremist rebels of al-Shabab has compounded the problems of harvest failure. The widespread hunger “is taking a particularly heavy toll on children and women, and makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks,” said the government statement.
Ali Hassan, 9 months old, is held by his mother Fadumo Abdi Ibrahim, who fled the drought in southern Somalia, at a feeding center in a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Sunday.