Somalia: the compound impact of drought and conflict pushes people to the brink

More than 300,000 people have been affected by the worsening drought in Somalia’s Galgaduud region. Last month the Federal Government declared a state of emergency, as thousands leave their homes in search of food, water and pasture.

In addition to the worsening drought, Guriel, a town of some 100,000 inhabitants in central Galgaduud, has seen an intensification of conflict. At the end of October, heavy fighting broke out between Somali National Army and Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a group, killing dozens and forcing some 100,000 people to flee to the neighboring villages.

“This drought is more severe than the ones I used to see. The clashes have forced people to run away and become displaced. The drought and lack of rainfall has also caused displacement. These things have all come at once,” said Hashim, a 50 year old resident of Guriel.

Intense shelling damaged several buildings in Guriel, including its main hospital. The Kulmiye Community hospital, the second largest in town, was destroyed in a fire.  Kulmiye hospital was a referral hospital that offered outpatient, inpatient, maternity and immunization services to people from surrounding villages within the range of over 100 km.

“This morning, a number of people arrived at the hospital thinking it still exists. They had not heard the news,” said Dr. Ali Omar Tarabi – Chairman, Kulmiye Hospital Board. The pressure on the remaining health facilities has considerably increased. 

Hundreds of thousands of people are staying in makeshift settlements on the outskirts of Guriel town. Some of them were displaced by the recent fighting, while others came to the area seeking pasture, as drought became more severe.

All the displaced people live in extremely difficult conditions, lacking access to the essential services, like food, water and healthcare. “To respond to these needs, we provided water trucking to displaced people in 17 villages”, said Mohamed Sheikh Ahmed, Head of ICRC office in Galmudug.  “Together with the Somali Red Crescent Society, we deployed a mobile health team that is providing essential health care services to six villages”.

Life is slowly returning to Guriel, but many small businesses remain closed and it will take time and effort to repair the damage, especially while the region is grappling with the consequences of the drought. 

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