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What it is, and how we help

What is drought?

Drought is an above-average lack of rainfall over a season, a year or several years.

Unlike more immediate disasters, a drought tightens its grip over time, gradually destroying an area. Severe droughts can last for many years, with the lack of water devastating agriculture and water supplies. Crops are often damaged or destroyed and families might lose access to clean drinking water.

This can lead to economic and social disasters, such as famine, malnutrition, epidemics and displacement of people.

How do Save the Children help children affected by drought?

In general, when responding to a drought Save the Children will:

Food Security and Livelihoods

  • Distribute food and provide cash transfers
  • Run programmes to protect the livelihoods of affected families (for example, we may distribute seeds, tools and fertiliser to tackle crop destruction).

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

  • Deliver safe drinking water


  • Provide basic health services, such as malnutrition checks
  • For every failed rain, two are needed to fully recover. Alongside the immediate, life-saving support for families, we also focus on long-term, sustainable solutions
  • We develop programmes devoted to strengthening livelihoods and bolstering communities
  • For example, we would aid the development of community-based early warning drought systems

How we helped children in Somalia affected by drought

Hani and Ambura in Somalia

Hani* (9, right) and sister Amburo* (4), have been hit with multiple droughts and locust infestations and now live in a camp for displaced people in Puntland, Somalia. Picture credit - Sacha Myers / Save the Children

Hani goes to Save the Children’s Child Friendly Space – funded by the United States Agency for International Development – and her siblings go to the Save the Children supported school. The family also accesses free healthcare at the Save the Children-assisted health centre and Amburo was treated for malnutrition at the stabilisation centre where we provide funding and training.

Families like Hani’s have experienced an increasing number of climate-related disasters over the last few decades, ranging from long-lasting droughts to devastating floods, locust infestations and even cyclones, sometimes all experienced in the same region within months.

In 2021, Somalia is facing yet another drought, which is pushing the number of children and adults who need critical support to 5.9 million – a third of the population and an increase of 700,000 people compared to 2020.