‘Dying one by one:’ Somalia drought crushes herders’ lives

'Dying one by one:' Somalia drought crushes herders' lives

BANDAR BEYLA, Somalia — Ahmed Haji turns from his visibly dehydrated animals and whispers: “I am lost.”

Trying to flee the worsening drought, he trekked thousands of kilometres with a herd that once numbered 1,200. But hundreds perished during the arduous trip to Puntland, in northern Somalia, in search of greener pasture.

The land here dried up not long after he arrived, leaving his animals weak from hunger and thirst. “They are now dying one by one,” the 30-year-old said, shading his face from the scorching sun. His goats drank water from a plastic barrel and picked dry leaves from plants nearby.

“I don’t even think these remaining ones will survive in the next two months,” Haji said. He left his wife and five children behind on his eight-day trek, fearing they wouldn’t survive. Now he wonders about himself.

Somalia has declared this drought a national disaster, part of what the United Nations calls the largest humanitarian crisis since the world body was founded in 1945.

An estimated 6 million people in this Horn of Africa nation, or about half the population, need aid amid warnings of a full-blown famine. Two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall, longer in some areas, have caused large-scale crop failures, the U.N. humanitarian agency says.

It is not clear how many people, or animals, have died so far.

Animals are central to many in Somalia. The United Nations says more than half the population is engaged in the livestock industry. The drought threatens their main sources of nutrition and survival.

Many wells have dried up, forcing herders to risk long treks to remote areas. Water prices have spiked, with a single water tanker now going for $150.

The hot wind blows across the vast, barren land and carcasses of animals.

“The sad reality of the drought this severe, this long, this enduring is we’re starting to see these massive livestock deaths, livestock losses. Fifty, 60, 70 per cent of livestock herds dying, which is an enormous hit for these pastoral families,” said Richard Trenchard, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Somalia.

The mass animal deaths, from hunger and thirst as well as disease, have caused herders to lose “just about everything,” Trenchard said, standing beside the carcass of a camel.

Even though rains are expected in mid-April, there are fears that effects of a heavy downpour could kill already weakened animals.

With their livestock gone, herders are ending up in camps with shortages of food, medicine and safe drinking water.

“Our journey here was so rough. There was no transport or water. We left behind everything. We are here now and we don’t have any proper shelter or transport,” said Dahiya Ahmed, a 48-year-old mother of eight at a camp in Qardho town.

She once herded 200 goats but now has just six. “The few of them that are still alive are too weak and cannot provide us with milk and meat,” she said. “They are just still alive but cannot benefit us at all.”

With the rise of disease-related deaths among the remaining animals, the United Nations is planning a major animal vaccination intervention. Some herders are being given basic training on vaccinating their animals and giving oral medications on their own.

“Hungry animals, starving animals are very vulnerable, very prone to disease,” Trenchard said.

Around two million animals are targeted for treatment against parasites, infectious disease and wounds, said Khalid Saeed, the FAO livestock sector co-ordinator, as he gave medicine to sick and weakened animals.

Somalia is part of a massive $4 billion aid appeal launched last month for four nations suffering from conflict and hunger. The others are Nigeria, Yemen and South Sudan, where famine already has been declared in two counties.

Abdi Guled, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Speedboat reportedly sinking near Manhattan Point in Kelowna

This is the third report of a boat found in the lake in the past two weeks

Kelowna General Hospital takes steps to prevent spread of coronavirus

So far, at least six people have died and 275 people have contracted the virus worldwide

Plans submitted for third hotel across from Kelowna International Airport

YLW passengers in need of accommodations could be getting another option

Vehicle fire occurred outside of fire departments’ coverage areas

Neither Summerland nor Peachland detachments attended incident at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park

Okanagan among Canada’s most at-risk habitats: WWF report

Report found the Okanagan is inadequately protected despite being a hotspot for at-risk species

UBCO students raise funds for those affected by Philippine volcano eruption

All proceeds will be donated to the Philippine Red Cross

B.C. RCMP spent roughly $750K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Future space homes could be made of mushrooms

NASA explores use of fungi to build structures in space

COLUMN: Pre-clearance changes at Canadian airports

Some believe these expanded powers may be contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

UPDATE: Revelstoke City Council gives themselves a raise, councillor resigns in protest

The mayor’s pay is set to go from $30,000 to $60,000 over three years

Pumphouse project puts North Okanagan taps back on Kal

The capital project at the Kal Lake Pump House to make it flood-resistant is near completion

Most Read