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Monday, March 28, 2022

Tough choices for drought-affected families - NaijaAgroNet

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On the outskirts of Beletweyne town in southern Somalia, Maryam Muse Duale breaks up small sticks in her hands, stoking a fire in the dirt to keep her young children warm at night. Maryam has made a flimsy shelter of sticks and cloth; it doesn’t keep the cold night air out. Her children sit on a mat, waiting for food from humanitarian agencies. When it comes, she shares among the children first. Parents eat whatever is left.
Like many other rural Somalis, Maryam is facing a new reality; it is a far cry from her life as an agro-pastoralist just a few months before. The drought in Somalia, which began in late 2020, has only been spreading and deepening.

Not so long ago, Maryam’s family used to raise goats, collect firewood and do some rain-fed farming to support themselves. But after three failed rainy seasons, the land has dried up, her goats are dead, and her family has been left destitute.

“Before the drought, we had a cart and a donkey, and we used to harvest wood. We had no camels, but we did have goats. Now that is all gone,” she said. With no options left, her family made the tough choice to leave their home and head to the town of Beletweyne in search of help.

“We came to the town here in search of life.”


Maryam’s family has also had to separate as a survival mechanism. The women have taken the children to town for help, while the men search for odd jobs and stay in their village to protect what’s left of their belongings. They don’t know when they will be reunited.

In the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp where Maryam and her children have found temporary shelter, everything must be provided for them – food, water, medicine. Living amongst strangers and away from the protection of their relatives, displaced women and children are also at a higher risk of gender-based violence and physical harm, not to mention disease outbreak. The decision to flee from home comes with a heavy economic and psycho-social toll.

“There is a big difference between our past and our present because in our past, we were living in our homes, and if we needed anything, we had a place to go,” said Maryam.

She is now entirely dependent on the goodwill of others for her survival and that of her family’s.

Like Maryam, some 667 000 people have already been displaced by the drought, and this number is predicted to rise exponentially in the second quarter of 2022, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

With other agencies providing support to those in IDP camps, FAO is in the drought affected areas, providing cash transfers, livelihood assets and other support to people in their villages, giving them the option to stay and helping to decrease the massive displacement and pressure on already crowded IDP camps.

With funding from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), FAO’s Cash+ project provides families with emergency cash transfers and livelihood assistance. Seeds, tools and veterinary care for animals help families to continue their work, while emergency cash assistance helps them cover other basic needs such as food, water and medicine, reducing the need to move away for services and support.

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