“What can I give her?” Desperate mothers forced to flee in search of food in Somalia – Somalia

By: Ahmed Issak Hussein,
Communication & Advocacy,
Action Against Hunger, Somalia

April 12, 2022

Mumina Afyarow has run out of milk to breastfeed her youngest daughter, who is only five months old. “What can I give her?” asks the 29-year-old mother of three children under the age of six.

In southwestern Somalia, severe drought and extremely limited access to clean water and health services have left many mothers in situations similar to Mumina’s. In pastoralist communities and camps for displaced people, food shortages are increasingly common.

Last year, Mumina, a widow, lost her goats and her donkey – the family’s source of income and food – to drought. Desperate to find food and a new livelihood to support herself and her children, Mumina left her home in the village of Garasweyn and walked more than 18 kilometers to the nearest displacement camp. . She was four months pregnant at the time and her cousin urged Mumina to come to the camp before giving birth so she could access health care and a safe place to give birth.

During their trip, Mumina’s 18-month-old son couldn’t walk for long. She was forced to pull over and wait on the side of the road, hoping to catch a ride. Fortunately, a man on a motorbike stopped and offered to take them the rest of the way.

“I cried to the man, and my kids were crying too. He allowed us to hug next to an empty plastic barrel on the motorcycle,” she says. They arrived after dark and stayed with her cousin for the night before seeking refuge at the displacement camp.

Camp life was not easy. There are severe food shortages and many families in similar circumstances. Most of the people in the camp are women and their children. The few families with a male figure present have more income options and other resources: men can look for work in the nearby town. Severe malnutrition is common among young children and most people are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid from Action Against Hunger and other organisations.

After another failed rainy season, drought intensified in 2022. Water wells dried up and more and more people fled rural areas to seek help in large areas. cities. Action Against Hunger is trucking drinking water to towns, villages and camps for the displaced in southwestern Somalia. For families in IDP camps, we also provide hygiene kits to help fight epidemics. Yet our mobile teams have found that dwindling food supplies lead to increased malnutrition among children.

“I don’t want my child to starve to death,” says Mumina, who worries about her own children and those of her fellow displaced mothers. Her neighbour, Aftin Madker, saw her two-year-old fall seriously ill from malnutrition. I am very worried about the condition of the neighbour’s child, so I sold the only bucket we had for $1.50 to buy food.”

Aftin’s husband fled the camp after he was unable to find food to feed his children or work to support his family. Aftin, who was pregnant, watched helplessly as her child’s health deteriorated. Her son had a fever and diarrhea and vomited frequently. Her grandmother gave Aftin all the sugar she had – there was no other food. Aftin prepared a solution of sugar and water and gave it to her child.

“I didn’t know what to do. I gave him some sugar water, which he took,” she said.

The Action Against Hunger mobile team, which travels to villages and camps for the displaced to help monitor health and nutrition and provide health care, met Aftin and his son and immediately discovered that he suffered from malnutrition. He was severely underweight and had a fever.

Aftin was given medicine to manage the fever, but her son didn’t want to eat Plumpy’Nut – the therapeutic food used to treat malnutrition at home – so our teams helped him get to the stabilization center in ‘Action contre la Faim, where the little boy was hospitalized for treatment.

It’s not just food prices that are rising, fuel is also more expensive. People who ride motorbikes to fetch water in rural areas face an impossible choice: abandon their livestock and livelihoods and let the remaining animals weaken further and die or incur new debts to transport water to and from remote villages to support themselves and their loved ones. herds.

Ahmed Malim Isak and Jele Ali Gedi are co-owners and drive a motorbike. Most of their customers are herders, who have no money to pay for trips during the drought, so the two men have been unable to buy fuel. Two days ago, they arrived in El Barde, the big town more than 25 km from their native village, and since then they have been stranded, unable to afford the petrol needed to return home.

Most herders have obtained loans to pay for food for themselves and their animals, promising to pay when the drought subsides. In one community, a group of 15 livestock owners borrowed over [$7,000] and plan to pay when the rains come. “We will continue to ask if we can get the loans,” says Jelle Ali, an elder whose village receives cash assistance and water trucking services from Action Against Hunger.

Action Against Hunger is providing nearly 2,000 vulnerable families in the region – including Aftin and Mumina – with cash transfers of $70 per month for three months to help them cope. The money will help them buy basic necessities and mitigate the effects of the drought.

Water and food are precious commodities in times of drought. The injection of emergency aid – water imported by truck and cash transfers – helps families in the short term, but these are costly and difficult to maintain interventions, especially as the number of people in need increases. For mothers like Mumina, these are truly difficult times.