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Drought Spells Disaster For Somali Herders

Storyline:National News

Two consecutive seasons of drought across northern Somalia are driving tens of thousands of pastoralists into hunger and debt. Abdilahi Mohamed had 20 cattle in August. Only five now survive.

He herded his animals 250 kilometers – from his home in Faraweyne to Banka Geriyaad, northwest of Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland region – in the hope that the Hays rainy season (December to February) had generated enough fresh pasture there.

“But before I got there people had already moved in and finished it all,” he told IRIN.  It’s a similar situation in the autonomous state of Puntland, to the east. Mohamoud Ahmed told IRIN by phone from Sanag region, one of the hardest-hit areas, that he had “lost a number” of his herd.

“My entire family is now in a critical situation: no water, no food, no nothing. Young ones and the elderly are suffering a lot. Sometimes I buy a drum of water for $120 – when I can afford it.” The drought is leading to “large-scale abnormal outmigration of livestock” to areas that received Hays rains, according to the latest food security assessment for Somalia. But the “improved pasture and water will likely be exhausted soon”, as it is unable to support the mass arrival of pastoralists and herds from as far afield as Djibouti and Ethiopia.

The assessment, compiled by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization-managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) in collaboration with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), says the current dry conditions are likely to persist until at least the start of the main Gu rains, which normally fall from April to June.