Since November 2016 more than 615.000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Somalia to seek humanitarian assistance. More are expected to follow in the coming time. Photo: Tobin Jones / The Danish Refugee Council

"We walked for seven days to find food"

In Southern Somalia, years of conflict makes it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid to rural areas. Combined with a disastrous drought, it has resulted in hundreds of thousands moving to city areas in search of food and water.

22.05.2017

Every day hundreds of people travel to the outskirts of Dollow, Gedo region in southern Somalia.  They have been forced to leave their homes in rural areas in search of food and water. The wells close to their homes have dried out and most have their domestic animals dead. For the third consecutive year, Somalia is affected by a severe drought, which is pushing its population closer and closer to starvation every day.

READ ALSO: HUNGER FORCES 615,000 SOMALIS TO LEAVE HOME IN SEARCH FOR HELP

Some areas in Somalia are even worse off than here. According to the UN, more than half of the country’s population is in urgent need of help while hundreds of thousands are at risk of dying from hunger if the drought continues.

Many have sought refuge to Dollow looking for relief for themselves and their families. Among them is 38-year-old Asnina Hussein Aden who has chosen to leave her home hoping to find help in the city.

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"We walked for seven days to get here. I borrowed a donkey cart from a neighbor for my kids to sit on and then started walking,” she says.

Asnina is waiting to be registered by the Danish Refugee Council, which makes her eligible to receive a card holding around USD 70 in credit. She can use the card in a number of small grocery shops in the city.

Hunger forces people to flee

Asnina has nine children between the ages six to 19 years. She brought all of them with her, while her husband stayed behind in order to take care of their home and belongings.

The reason, she decided to venture out on the long and dangerous journey, is simple:

"We were hungry", she says with no further elaboration. And further elaboration isn’t needed. That's the reason why everyone is here.

READ ALSO: CASH IS ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO PROVIDE EMERGENCY RELIEF

"There has been a drought for the past three years. When we lost all our livestock, I decided to look for a place where I could find help getting food for myself and my children", she says adding: "Now I am happy that we have found help so my children can get something to eat".

The journey to Dollow was long and tough. The family got by on what they could find.

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"We ate a root that we found on the side of the road. We dug it up and cooked it," she says.

Now she hopes that the family can make it safely through the drought.

"We need shelter and food. I really hope that we can get the help we need here".

With the money card, Asnina will receive a grant once a month for three months - enough to save her and her family from starvation.

 

How we save lives in Dollow

The Danish Refugee Council is one of the largest humanitarian organizations working in Somalia. In the area around Dollow in the southern part of the country, we already assist more than 25,000 people. In the coming months we increase our efforts in order to meet the extra needs and save more lives. One of our most important tasks is to deliver water in drought-affected communities and help with the distribution of food. Additionally, we set up toilets in the many newly established, informal camps for internally displaced people in order to minimize the risk and spreading of infectious diseases.

The Danish Refugee Council always works with a long-term focus in order to ensure that affected communities are strengthened against future disasters.

Helping across borders

The UN warns that the on-going growing drought can develop into the biggest humanitarian disaster since its establishment in 1945. Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria have been described as 'the four famines’, but the extensive drought does not know of borders. Countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and parts of Uganda are also severely affected. The extensive drought leaves as many as 20 million people at risk which makes rapid assistance and access to food and water a matter of life and death.

The Danish Refugee Council is present in all of the affected countries and work across borders to help as many people as possible.