The exodus of Somali refugees into Kenya and Ethiopia is getting worse by the day. Most arrive exhausted. Over 8,500 Somalis have come to Kenya since the beginning of July and 11,000 have gone to Ethiopia.
It is not only drought that is driving people from Somalia. Twenty years of civil war have left the country with no effective government.
The situation is desperate, according to António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees: “Conflict and drought are combining, creating a terrible situation for people, who are forced to flee in large numbers. Children are dying on the way. Children are coming to Ethiopia or Kenya and doctors can’t even treat them because of their level of malnutrition.”
Red Cross figures show one Somali child in 10 in the regions most affected by drought, is in danger of starving to death, twice as many as in March. Malnutrition levels in the country are the highest in the world.
It is not just Somalis who are suffering. Famine is affecting all countries in the Horn of Africa. Now 11 million people need help to survive the food shortages.
In Habaswein in the far north of Kenya there has been no rain for a year. Many animals have died. Others have been taken further north in search of water. Only women, children and the elderly remain in the village.
Like many others, Fatuma Ahmed depends on rations of maize, beans and oil provided by aid agencies and the government. She said: “I have no husband. I’m raising my children alone. We had some animals but they’ve all died. Now we’re depending on aid from charities. What I’m cooking now is the only meal my family will eat today.”
In the village of Fini, farmers try to move a dying cow into the shade. The animal will only last a few days. This is not the first time this area has been hit by drought, but according to villagers like Mori Omar, it has never been this bad.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this. I’m 56 years old, but I look more like 80 because of many years of not having enough food. During the droughts, there’s no meat or milk,” she said.
There is a growing consensus that climate change is to blame for the driest period in 60 years. The UN says droughts are becoming more frequent – before they used to be every five or 10 years, now it is every two.