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Drought in Somalia – Hunger is driving people into the city – News

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.

Legend:

Naima Mohammed lost one of her eight children while trying to escape. The widow is dependent on donations from her neighbors in the camp.

Samuel Burri/SRF

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.

Man sits in front of flags of Somalia and the Bay Region

Legend:

Abdullahi Watiin in his office. The mayor of Baidoa tries to solve his city’s problems.

Samuel Burri/SRF

“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.

Woman sits at the sewing machine

Legend:

Nuriya Meris works as a seamstress in the city center. She wants to stay in Baidoa.

Samuel Burri/SRF

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.”

Busy street with pedestrians and tuktuks

Legend:

Baidoa is the center of southwest Somalia. The city is surrounded by the terrorist militia Al-Shabaab.

Samuel Burri/SRF

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 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.

Girl stands on a mound in front of fabric tents

Legend:

Over half a million people live in self-made tents around the city of Baidoa.

Samuel Burri/SRF

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.”

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.

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