Analysis: As drought catastrophe looms, many succumbing to death in Somali region; official admits, cites “beyond capacity” but refutes death toll

El Gofa IDP center in Moyale Woreda. ©AddisStandard

By Medihane Ekubamichael @Medihane &

Biruk Alemu @Birukalemu21

Moyale – Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) from various woredas of Dawa zone, one of the severely hit zones by drought in the Somali region, who are sheltering in two IDP camps in Moyale woreda, told Addis Standard that more than eighteen people have died due to the drought in recent days. Disturbing stories are emerging about people forced to feed on unusual items. Officials of the woreda admitted the severity of that the situation and said it is “beyond their capacity.”

During Addis Standard’s visit at Harbor IDP center in Meleb kebele near Moyale, victims of the drought keenly rush to visitors, hoping to meet with volunteers who brought in aid, but end up desperately pleading for help to arrive.

An IDP sheltered in one of the camps told Addis Standard that they have need immediate assistance and says that more than eight people have died in the vicinity of the center. He desperately explained the disturbing severity of the drought, mentioning that people were struggling to survive and are forced consume cattle’s fodder inside Harbor IDP camp.

Aden Ali. a health worker in Lehey on assignment, confirmed the death of at least three children from malnutrition in different Moyale Special kebeles that he helped dug their grave. Ali, who showed pictures of the deceased to Addis Standard, said that there is high shortage of nutritional supplemental food and called for speedily delivery to save the lives of children. He said they were able to provide nutritious food supplements to children in this area only once.

Ali is a young man who came back from Moyale to El Gofa to help his family after abandoning his final year of high school . Ali said that he knew at least five people who died due to the impacts of the drought as no proper aid delivery is reaching the area.

“When we ask for help we are not getting answers, but we have nothing to eat now, we are screaming in hunger, I can’t even stand now”

Aliyo Ibrhim

But Aliyo Ibrhim, who came from Ulaga and now sheltering in El Gofa IDP camp, said that the drought has already claimed up to ten people already from the IDP center. Aliyo burst into tears when he spoke to Addis Standard about the chronic lack of basic needs, especially food, medical supplies and proper shelter to the tens of thousands of IDPs in the center.

Aliyo Ibrhim, an IDP from Ulaga, now sheltering in El Gofa IDP camp. ©AddisStandard

“When we ask for help we are not getting answers, but we have nothing to eat now, we are screaming in hunger, I can’t even stand now,” a tearful Aliyo said. “The main problems here are food, medicine and shelter. If the rain comes people have nowhere to shelter themselves,” Aliyo, who came to El Gofa in search of water and is trying sustain life by selling his remaining goats, said.

Another resident in the center, whom spoke with Addis Standard without the company of officials, corroborated the death of more than eight people in the IDP camp due to the impacts of the drought.

The severity of the drought in Moyale woreda is grim for the pastoralist community who lost all their cattle and camels which they depend on for their livelihood. Drought victims said that their condition is worsening by the day due to lack of emergency aid.

Salada Hassan, an elderly woman from Mukatu at El Gofa IDP center. ©AddisStandard

Salada Hassan, an elderly woman from Mukatu, said that she and her family have lost all their cattle. “We have nothing to eat and we got nothing; we had to gather and eat Hanja, resin like wood extract. But now the trees are completely dried out”, a heartbroken Salada said.

Boneya Ali has the same story to tell. He came to the El Gofa IDP camp form Guji after loosing all his cattle to the drought. Like many others, he is desperately waiting for an aid to arrive, while trying to sustain his family’s life by making charcoal.

The story of Eda Hassan, who came from Balgorey kebele and Mahmud Mohamod, an elderly displaced from Raro and Gojwa localities, is no different. They also fear that the recent rain will destroy their plastic shelters, leaving no roof above their heads.

“I lost all my eighty cattle and twenty-five camels before coming here about six months ago. Now we barely get aid to sustain our lives in here,” Mahmud, who is now staying in Harbor IDP camp, said.

In the areas of the Moyale woreda, where Addis Standard team visited, are turned into leafless abstracts of dry woods due to the unforgiving drought. Since 13 March, however, the long awaited rain has started to come.

“The issue of food and shelter have already become beyond our capacity,”

Isan Mohamod

Isan Mohamod, Head of the Moyale Woreda Disaster Risk Management (DRM) office, told Addis Standard that there were about 94,852 IDPs in the woreda sheltered in 14 different IDP camps, whereas 8, 808 households or about 52,852 people, are sheltered in El Gofa camp alone.

He said that officials have distributed rice, oil, sugar and dates to 1, 200 households with most in need with the limited aid supplies that came from the regional state.

“The main problem the people are facing is shortage of food and shelter. The plastic shelters you see here are very difficult to live in [both during sunny and rainy days]. If the recent sign of rain is to hold, the shelters are not going to withstand, according to Isan.

“The issue of food and shelter have already become beyond our capacity,” Isan admitted, “we have forwarded the matter to the regional state level.”

A woman carrying her baby tries to build a shelter at El Gofa IDP center, waiting for plastic shack to come. ©AddisStandard

However, Isan refuted the death toll provided by the people, and said that only four died of hunger are identified and recognized by the woreda. He said the high number of death toll given by the people is because the number included those who also died of other issues. Official tally of the woreda on site indicated that three of the deceased are adults and one was aged 16.

A total of 49,611 camels, 93,912 cattle, 74,394 goats, and 1,172 donkeys have also perished due to the drought, according to the official record by the woreda.

Isan further said that the severity of the drought this year has become unprecedented beyond their preparedness, although they were trying to provide support.

Mohamed Isaac, the woreda’s DRM expert, also admitted the the woreda “can not provide food for all the people in its capacity. This is beyond our capacity,” he said, adding that they have reported the matter to the regional administration.

The officials explained that the delayed responses were communicated to the local media so that provision of aid are facilitated, although no significant aid support has arrived yet.

The impact of the recurring drought in Dawa zone of Somali region has become unprecedented, leaving a staggering number of people severely affected, animals perished, rivers dried up and reports of people dying from hunger are starting to emerge.

Residents about a week ago told Addis Standard that pastoral communities in four districts of the zone namely Moyale, Hudet, Kededuma and Mubarak woredas, are in the middle of a dire danger that need immediate emergency response. AS

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