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Drought and war: the struggle to survive in Somalia

“This drought has left us destitute, and the war has taken what little we had left,” 28-year-old Habiba told me when she arrived in Bosaso in northern Somalia.

Habiba had travelled for eight days in a cramped truck from Mogadishu with two of her children – Mona who is three and Ismael who is just three months old. All of them are severely malnourished – Habiba can no longer feed baby Ismael because her milk has dried up and Ismael has been ill with vomiting and diarrhoea since birth.

Habiba has a third child who was taken by his grandmother to also flee. Habiba last heard from them when they were in a town in central Somalia two weeks ago and has no idea where they are now or if they are OK.


She had managed to scrape together $40 so that they could flee to Bosaso after her husband was killed in Mogadishu and it was no longer safe for them to remain there. Habiba told us that she had spent all of her money on the truck journey, and she had nothing left to buy food for her or her children.

During the journey, the truck would often be stopped by different militia groups and those travelling were robbed of the meagre belongings they had left with them. Every time the truck truck stopped, Habiba would beg people to give her food and water, while knowing she was at risk of being ‘arrested’ or detained.


And then the journey got even worse. When they arrived on the outskirts of Galkayo, a town bordering central Somalia and Puntland, the truck exploded into flames. Habiba showed us the burns all over her right arm and leg – she was caught in the cab of the truck while it was on fire. She has had no treatment for these burns as she cannot afford to pay for a hospital visit or medications. When she arrived in Bosaso, her clothes were burnt and in tatters and she had no clothes for her children.

Sadly, Habiba is just one of many who are arriving from other parts of Somalia utterly destitute, desperate to find somewhere safer for their families. They have lost their crops and livestock and have no money. They are struggling to survive on just one meal a day, or nothing at all.

When they arrive here, things aren’t much better in the refugee camps. People are living in very bad conditions. There are no latrines or washing facilities, many of the dwellings are made from cardboard, pieces of corrugated iron roofing and materials.

Many of the women try to find casual labour as cleaners or cooks, to earn money to feed their families. This means they have to leave their children all day long, the younger ones being looked after by the older ones.

“I’m happy to be in a place where there is peace and no guns or bombs,” said Habiba. “Now I need to find somewhere to live and income so that I can feed my children.”

Save the Children is feeding 9,000 children at 60 feeding centres across south central Somalia and Puntland, but we desperately want to expand our work to provide food for mothers and their children, shelter and healthcare, and education and protection for those children who are alone all day looking after their siblings.

Please donate to our East Africa Appeal

This post was written by Sonia Zambakides, Emergencies Manager in Save the Children’s Somalia/Somaliland Programme.

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