Drought / East Africa / Kenya / Somalia / Vulnerability

‘I never thought I’d lose all my cattle; I never thought I’d be a refugee’–Abdi Farah Hassan

East Africa Food Crisis - Somaliland

A kilometre outside Waridaad village, in Somalia, carcasses of dead sheep and goats stretch across the landscape; this and other regions of the Horn of Africa are suffering from one of the driest years in memory; severe shortages of food and water, along with spiralling food prices and the deaths of livestock, have plunged many families into destitution (photo on Flickr by Oxfam International).

The New York Times reported on Friday (15 Jul 2011) that, ‘having already suffered years of war, many Somalians are now fleeing the most severe drought the region has known in 60 years.’

‘Once again,’ reports the newspaper’s Nairobi bureau chief, Jeffrey Gettleman, ‘man-made dimensions are making this natural disaster more acute. . . .

‘As many as 380,000 people already live in the amalgam of camps that make up Dadaab (it was intended to hold 90,000), and the Kenyans worry that Somalis will continue flocking here and never go home, given the perennial turmoil in their country since the central government collapsed in 1991. . . .

‘Mr. Isak walked for 20 days from Somalia to get here. What he encountered was what so many other refugees described: piles of dead animals, empty villages, people dying of starvation, an unbroken trail of bodies from his village to the camp.

‘“There is nothing left back there,” he said.

‘Another refugee spoke of his village in similar terms: “There is nothing alive.”. . .’

‘The years of conflict—and recent increases in food prices—have depleted Somalia’s ability to withstand it. Thousands of people are leaving relatively uneventful rural areas to seek refuge even in Mogadishu, Somalia’s bullet-riddled capital, which has experienced a mass exodus for years because of fighting between the shaky government and Islamist militants. . . .

‘The route to Dadaab, which lies about 50 miles inside Kenya’s border, is especially perilous, winding through one of the most unforgiving environments in the world. Refugees have been marauded, raped and killed by the various armed groups that haunt the land. Most arrive here penniless and demoralized. Many parents said they buried children along the way. . . .

‘Somali refugees are typically not allowed to work in Kenya, and without special permission they are not supposed to leave the camp. Dadaab is a place to warehouse people, often for years. Aid workers predict the numbers here could soon swell to half a million, sprawled across miles of scrub brush.

I never thought I’d lose all my cattle,” said Abdi Farah Hassan, who looked visibly uncomfortable in line to be photographed. “I never thought I’d be a refugee.”’

Read the article in the New York Times: Misery follows as Somalis try to flee hunger, 15 Jul 2011.

Watch the 3-minute accompanying video in the New York Times: Driven by drought, 15 Jul 2011.

The people who could not come, we left them with their animals. Ten people died of hunger. If you can’t find food, you just go to sleep.’—Abdilie Bile Matnour, Somali refugee at Dadaab camp.

2 thoughts on “‘I never thought I’d lose all my cattle; I never thought I’d be a refugee’–Abdi Farah Hassan

  1. Many thanks Susan, for bringing this to our attention..i agree it is heart breaking- but I guess, this is not the time to BREAK hearts- this is the time to PUT our hearts into being of some help..

    • @Purvi: Thanks for this. Please see some of ILRI’s recent livestock-based policy recommendations on our News Blog: ‘Livestock-based research recommendations for better managing drought in Kenya’:

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