Hargeisa — About 120,000 people in the coastal, mid- and far western regions of the self-declared republic of Somaliland require emergency food assistance after four years of failed rains, says Mohamed Mousa Awale, chairman of Somaliland's environment research and disaster preparedness agency.
"We are calling on the international community to help these needy people to save lives," he said.
The most affected areas include the Salel Region localities of Asha-Ado, Lughaya, Garba-Dadar, Gargaara and Waraqa-dhigta where some 450 tons of food aid from Djibouti was distributed on 6 July.
"People [have] gathered in the villages after they lost [all] their animals during the four-year drought," said Sa'ad Ahmed Abdillahi, a member of Zaila District Council. Zaila is the capital of Salel in western Somaliland near the border with Djibouti.
Abdillahi said thousands of former pastoralists in Salel had migrated to areas such as Abdul-Kadir, Asha-Ado, Cel-Gal and Harirad which previously had some remaining water sources. "Now... there are thousands of families in search of a livelihood. These people have no shelter, food or even medical care."
The four-year drought has caused human deaths, too. "We believe that about 500 mothers lost their lives during [childbirth] because they were malnourished and about 1,500 children died from malnutrition in the four years," added Abdillahi.
Previously, people were able to cope by exchanging some of their livestock for food.
Remittances had also played a role. "Families who have relatives abroad can survive [for] some time, but now it seems that the problem is getting beyond the money that the diaspora Somalilanders send back home," said Sayid Omar, chairman of the Awdal region-based Africa Youth Development Association.
Appeals for help
The village of Garbadadar in the Golis mountains, 125km northwest of Hargeisa, is now hosting several hundred drought-displaced families.
"We came here to search for a livelihood or get support from the government of Somaliland, citizens or international aid workers because we lost our animals. But we are yet to get any; now we are relying on local people's support," Mohamed Hassan, a father of five, told journalists.
"We get some food sometimes, and sometimes we [do] not. We hope the Almighty Allah will help us," said Amina Omar, a mother of three.
In a 24 June statement, Somaliland president Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Silanyo) appealed for help in responding to the drought: "It is estimated that up to 20,000 households have been affected. These people require emergency assistance in food, water, medical care and shelter. If we do not respond and attend to their needs immediately, we might lose many of them, particularly the most vulnerable, the young and the old, to starvation and dehydration."
Day-time temperatures in the coastal areas of Somaliland exceed 40 degrees Celsius at this time of year. Somaliland has experienced worsening drought since March.
A May-June update by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit expressed concern about the plight of pastoralists with sheep or goats along parts of the Indian Ocean coastline which received poor to no rainfall. A third consecutive failed 'Hays' rainy season (December-February) in the Guban area of Awdal region and in the Waqooyi Galbeed region led to a large outmigration of livestock to the nearby Golis mountains.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]