Famine fears as severe drought grips East Africa

Famine fears as severe drought grips East Africa

A terrible sense of déjà vu hangs over the Horn of Africa, where fears are growing that a severe drought could soon become a famine. Two years of below-average rainfall have pushed Somalia and Ethiopia to the brink of starvation and nomadic families, who move with the seasons in search of fertile land and fresh water, have faced the heart-wrenching choice between feeding themselves and feeding their animals.

East African Drought

The goats were first to die, followed by the cows. Now even the bodies of drought-resistant camels lie beside shrivelled cacti at the side of the road. For families who rely on these animals for meat, milk, transportation and trade it’s the equivalent of losing their entire life savings.East African Drought

Now, with nothing left and no food to fuel the onward journey, they’ve settled in camps, living in makeshift tents, waiting for aid to arrive. In Awdal region, near the Ethiopian border, 1,200 people have gathered at the newly emerged Quljeed camp, without a single toilet.

It’s estimated that the people here have lost 5,000 animals between them and hundreds, if not thousands of goats, cows and camels, are buried in mass graves beside a sprawling jumble of circular tents made from branches stuck in the ground and covered with sheets.

Mum-of-three, Nimo Mohamed Abdi, 32, has not yet found any sheets so she and her children sleep on dry earth beneath a dome of twigs, entirely exposed.  “Three months ago we had 150 goats, 20 cows, 10 camels and three donkeys. Now nothing remains. Everything died,” she said.

“We were living by the coast then and the animals died so quickly, one after another, that we could do nothing with their corpses but throw them into the sea. I’ve been here for 25 days. I don’t know what the future holds for us”, she added

The UN estimates 4.7 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance. In Somalia and Ethiopia, where recurrent droughts are linked to El Niño climate fluctuations, the situation feels hauntingly familiar. In 2011, following a similar two-year drought in southern Somalia, warnings of an impending famine went unheard. The resulting crisis claimed more than 250,000 lives.

While water restrictions are being felt across Southern Africa, the need in Somalia and Ethiopia is dire. Islamic Relief South Africa has therefore launched our Water for Life Campaign, which enables every person – Muslim or non-Muslim – to play a role in saving thousands of lives in the Horn of Africa.