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Humanitarian Watch

Somalia: Failed rains threaten nomad way of life

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The words rob raac in Somali translate to rain follower. It is a term commonly used in pastoralist circles that refers to the lifestyle of moving from one place to another with one’s livestock in search of pasture and water. This lifestyle is shared by many pastoralists, who make up 60 percent of Somalia’s population.

Failed consecutive rains in the country, though, have prolonged a debilitating dry spell, grinding to a halt a way of life for many nomads who roam the lands.

“We follow the rain to every corner of the country,” says Abdullahi Abdirahman, a pastoralist who now lives in a temporary shelter in Hirsi Hade village, in Somalia’s Galmuduug region. His dusty shoes are visibly worn out by years of trekking across the arid lands with his 500 animals – goats, cattle and sheep.

The drought has brought the 70-year-old’s lifestyle to a stop.

“I have walked over 200km in the past months in search of rain, food and pasture for my family and the remaining goats, sheep and camels,” says Abdullahi. “I’m now left with 50 frail livestock that can’t produce milk or meat.”

Many like him have made the long, arduous journey but end up poorly rewarded for their efforts.

“Those who originally had 300 goats now could be left with 30, all of whom are very weak,” he says. “Many died along the way due to hunger and disease before reaching the grazing grounds”

Pastoralists have long been accustomed to the harsh environment in Somalia, but the prolonged drought has brought many to the edge of starvation.

Sun-bleached carcasses of livestock dot the area, remains of what were once high-value assets that offered meat, milk and income for families. The animals are also a means of currency when making dowry payments or settling disputes, making the skeletons a particularly sad but not uncommon sight here.

Beaten down by loss and little to show for their struggle, many pastoralists including Abdullahi end up settling in temporary shelters in unfamiliar towns with nothing to live on but humanitarian assistance.

Double Trouble: Drought and Conflict

Unfortunately for these pastoralist communities, long dry spells are not their only problem.

“During our stay in Hiran region, clan conflicts broke out as a result of fighting over grazing land,” says 35-year-old Farhiyo Mohamed, who is also a pastoralist living in a displacement camp on the outskirts of Guriel town, 10km from Abdullahi’s area. She remained in the camp with her nine children while her husband took off for the north of Somalia with the animals in an attempt to keep the remaining few alive.

“We have to find a way to help each other and share whatever food we have,” says a hopeful Farhiyo. “If I cook some food we have to share, and that’s how we survive.”

In November, Abdullahi’s and Farhiyo’s families were part of 15,000 households in Galgaduud region that received bags of rice, cooking oil, beans and porridge that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed to help them cope. The food is expected to see the families through to the end of the year. Displaced families received additional items including sleeping mats, kitchen utensils, tarpaulins and hygiene parcels.

The ICRC has also concluded a massive livestock treatment campaign of over a million animals in November to help boost recovery efforts of pastoralists across the country.

Despite the persistence of the dry conditions, some light showers have been observed in parts of Somalia since October, signaling the start of the end-year rainy season (deyr). Abdullahi has given up on the nomadic lifestyle altogether but Farhiyo expects to leave the camp once her husband returns. If the rains hold, her family will set off and rob raac wherever the rains may lead them.

Humanitarian Watch

Somalia’s Puntland Region Declares State of Emergency Over Drought

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Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland declared a state of emergency Tuesday and appealed for food and water because of shortages triggered by a severe drought.

Drought has gripped large parts of the Horn of Africa country this year and the United Nations says children face acute malnutrition.

The crisis is compounded by al-Shabab’s Islamist insurgency that seeks to topple the central government that is backed by African Union peacekeepers and the West.

Al-Shabab militants carry out bombings in the capital Mogadishu and other regions. Militants killed more than 500 people in the capital in an attack last month.

Puntland’s government said 34,000 households across the region are affected by the drought due to the failure of successive rainy seasons.

Puntland “launched a wide-ranging humanitarian appeal to secure food, water and other resources for the affected region,” a government statement said. It said 70 percent of the area faced extreme drought and was unlikely to receive rain for five months.

Militant attacks in Puntland are rare compared to the rest of Somalia mainly because its security forces are relatively regularly paid and receive substantial U.S. assistance.

But this year there has been an upsurge in violence as al-Shabab and a splinter group linked to Islamic State have attacked government troops.

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Humanitarian Watch

Family in remote northern Somali village sell last camel in lost bid to save daughter sick with measles

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RADIO ERGO — Saleban Mohamed Mire lost two of his daughters, aged six and two, from measles in the space of a week in the remote and forgotten northern Somali village of Fardhin.

After one daughter died, he sold his last remaining camel to get the money to transport the other sick child to the nearest hospital, some 45 km away on poor roads in the dusty town of Boame.

But they arrived there too late to save her.

“After my first daughter died at home we decided to rush the other one to hospital. We organised some money but it took us four days to travel to the hospital. She was in a critical state when we got there and the doctors couldn’t do much to save her,” Saledin told Radio Ergo.

“I blame the lack of health care [in our area] for their deaths from this disease,” he added.

The family, with eight children, ended up using the $350 they got from the sale of their camel to pay the medical fees for their dead daughter, who spent two days in hospital.

Saleeban said there were other families in his village with patients affected by measles and with no means of accessing hospitals.

“We have seen deaths of children in the area, I took part in the burial of two other children two days ago in Karin-Kafood village, I presume that they died of measles,” he

Dr Mohamed Yasin Warasame, known as Hayte, who works in a private hospital in Boame, told Radio Ergo that three people died whilst being treated in his hospital.

“There are over 50 people who have been hospitalized with the disease. It is causing concern particularly in Karin-karfood village. The people who are sick in the rural areas where there are no medical services are the worst affected,” he said.

The District Commissioner’s office confirmed the deaths of three people including a six- year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy.

Boame lies in the border area between Puntland, Somaliland and Ethiopia.  Its control is disputed by Puntland and Somaliland and as a result it has very poor services and little if any access to aid. The people living there are traditionally nomadic pastoralists.

The commissioner of Boame district, Hayle Hassan Shire, told Radio Ergo’s local reporter that people often contacted his office asking for help but they were not able to do much to stop the spread of measles in the district.

“We tried to ask for aid from Puntland administration two weeks ago but they have not yet responded,” the commissioner said.

He added that vaccination services do not always reach the 15 remote villages in the district, where there are also up to 20 spontaneous camps that have been set up by distressed pastoralists displaced from their normal migration patterns by the terrible drought.

The recent rainfall in some areas has prompted a new movement of large numbers of people in search of water and pasture for their animals. This has led to the spread of diseases such as measles.

Apart from one private hospital, Boame has only two Mother and Child Health centres.

Dr Hayte said there is a need for health services to be taken out to the people in distant villages.

“We are private hospital and we have medicine, we treat whoever comes here at a fee and we sometimes give them services on credit.  But there are many others who cannot afford to reach the hospital. These people need humanitarian aid,” he said.

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Humanitarian Watch

UN appeals for record $22.5 bn in global aid for 2018

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AFP — The United Nations appealed Friday for a record $22.5 billion (18.9 billion euros) to provide aid in 2018 to soaring numbers of people slammed by conflicts and disasters around the world.

The global appeal by UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations aims to raise funds to help the some 91 million most vulnerable of the nearly 136 million people expected to need aid across 26 countries next year.

The number of people in need of international assistance worldwide has thus risen more than five percent from last year’s estimate.

“More people than ever before will need our assistance,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement launching the appeal.

Drought, floods and other weather-related catastrophes are expected to continue racking up humanitarian needs.

But Lowcock stressed that “conflict, in particular protracted crises, will continue to be the main driver of need in 2018.”
One conflict clearly tops the charts in terms of humanitarian needs.

A full $7.66 billion is needed to address the staggering needs created by Syria’s brutal conflict alone — more than a third of the requested amount of funds next year.

According to the appeal, $3.5 billion is needed to provide humanitarian assistance inside the war-ravaged country, where more than 340,000 people have been killed and millions driven from their homes since March 2011.

Another $4.16 billion is needed to address the towering needs of the 5.3 million Syrian refugees registered in neighbouring countries, as well as of their over-burdened host communities, the appeal said.

War-torn Yemen, which is facing the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis, comes next on the list, with Friday’s appeal urging donors to cough up $2.5 billion to provide desperately needed assistance to the most vulnerable people in the country.

That amount would meanwhile only cover the needs of 10.8 million people — fewer than half of the 22.2 million in need of aid, the UN acknowledged.

Other major crises requiring substantial funds include South Sudan, which has been wracked by civil war since 2013, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria.

On a more positive note, the UN said that humanitarian needs in a number of countries, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq and Ukraine had declined some, although they still remained high.

At the same time however, “substantial increases in needed are projected” in places like Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Libya, it warned.

The amount appealed for Friday marks a one-percent hike over the $22.2 billion requested last December for 2017.

But there is little chance all the requested cash will materialise.

Last year, donors covered just over half of the appeal, dishing out only $13 billion for aid around the world.

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