On the long way to the city, first the donkey died, then her four-year-old daughter, says Naima Mohammend. Shortly before that, the widow had decided to leave her village. Their goats were dead, the fields empty. So she packed her belongings on the donkey and headed for the city.
There was no time for mourning along the way. Mohammed buried the daughter next to the road. Then she went on with seven children. The family marched for two days.
Now the mother is sitting in a hemispherical tent in a camp for displaced people in the city of Baidoa. Her baby is crying in her arms and she is gently rocking it. “I don’t have any milk to breastfeed my daughter,” explains Mohammed, “she’s getting thinner and thinner.” Your children do not understand why there is nothing. “Only Allah knows where the next meal will come from.”
Around Baidoa there are tens of thousands of tents made of branches and cloth. 600,000 displaced persons are already living on the dusty fields. According to the UN, around 1,000 new ones arrive every day. The registered refugees receive help with money transfers to their cell phones. But it’s not enough. A third of all children are malnourished, and there is a risk of famine in Baidoa.
Once the breadbasket of Somalia
Hard to believe that this was once the breadbasket of Somalia. “Baidoa was the millet center, we produced millions of tons, including corn,” says Mayor Abdullahi Watiin. The smart man in jeans and white sneakers is on the go every day, protected by an armed patrol.
In addition to the climate, Baidoa has a second problem: the city is surrounded by the terrorist militia Al-Shabaab. Despite drought and hunger, she still collects taxes. This also leads to rural exodus.
“The pressure on the city is great,” admits the mayor. Many resources, such as water or electricity, are limited. Health care is rudimentary and unemployment is high. In Baidoa there are already three times as many displaced people as residents.
“But we want to welcome everyone as a city,” says Watiin. The mayor is looking for a solution to this. He dresses up and welcomes international organizations and donors.
Many will remain in the city
19-year-old Nuriya Meris also lives in the camp. But during the day she goes downtown, where she sits in a clothes shop at the sewing machine. “I learned tailoring and can now earn money with it,” explains the young woman. She receives around two francs per dress.
She received the training and the money for the sewing machine through a project. The UN Migration Agency IOM and the African Development Bank are training young displaced people in Baidoa.
Nuriya came to the city five years ago, fleeing from al-Shabaab. The young woman doesn’t want to go back: “I don’t know what the current situation is in my village. But meanwhile I feel comfortable in the city. I have a job here.”
Most of those displaced will never return to their village. In Somalia, on the Horn of Africa, there is hardly any rain. Climate change has made entire areas uninhabitable.
The drought in the Horn of Africa
Somalia and its neighboring countries are suffering from the worst drought in years. Around 36 million people are affected, according to the UN. Four rainy seasons in a row have already failed, and now there is no rain again. Ten million livestock have already died.
The UN warns that famine could hit Somalia in the coming months. Famine is rarely declared, twice in the last 20 years worldwide.
In addition to the drought, the terrorist militia Al-Shabaab is also causing problems in Somalia – it is making aid even more difficult. The international response to the hunger crisis has only started very slowly, also because of the Ukraine war.
The city cannot meet the challenge alone, as Mayor Watiin knows. He drives to the outskirts of town with his armed men. Here, in the outskirts of Barwaaqo, over 2,000 displaced families have found a new home in tin shacks. Funded by charities.
Land ownership offers a perspective
Father Hassan Ismail opens his corrugated iron house. It is a room with one bed, the seven children also sleep here. The tin shack isn’t a permanent home, but it offers more protection than a tent. And the crucial difference, according to Ismail: “The property here belongs to me.”
Land ownership should offer people prospects and security. There is also a school in the quarter and soon there will be a market.
Ismail charges neighbors’ cell phones for a fee. “I also sell cables and mobile phone accessories as a street vendor.” That’s how he earns extra income.
The 30-year-old also tried farming on his property, but it didn’t work. “There’s no water,” Ismail admits. His family still needs food aid.
Mayor Watiin admits that the new district is not a patent solution: “The residents are still dependent on help. Some own small shops or animals. But despite owning land, they are still poor families.”
Hunger in East Africa: Swiss Solidarity calls for donations
The Horn of Africa – Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia – as well as Sudan and South Sudan are currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in a generation, which has steadily worsened over the past few years. The current drought could one of the worst crises caused by climate change in the recent history of the Horn of Africa.
36.1 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are estimated to be affected by food and water shortages due to the current drought in the Horn of Africa. Two districts in Somalia are threatened with imminent famine.
the lucky chain calls with one donation day on November 23, 2022 donations on. With donations from the Swiss population, Swiss Solidarity and its local Swiss partner organizations implement projects that give the population access to food and drinking water. In addition, they enable people to buy food despite the loss of their livelihood, or they treat sick and injured people.
Donate via link or e-banking IBAN: CH82 0900 0000 1001 5000 6 / Swiss Solidarity / 1211 Geneva 8 / Postfinance / 3030 Bern
In addition, 80,000 other families live in the tent cities around Baidoa. It is difficult to give everyone a piece of land. But the mayor hopes that the new district will enable at least some people to take the step towards independence.
“There has always been an emergency in Somalia, for 50 years. We have to change that.” Watiin wants to move away from emergency aid and towards more independence. The people in the tin shacks on the outskirts of Baidoa have taken a first step. But the road to a self-determined life remains long and rocky.