Famine caused by drought is threatening the independent state to the north of Somalia on the Horn of Africa.

The land is dying. For as far as the eye can see there is little more than dirt – a barren, ruined landscape dotted with hardy shrubs and trees that are worthless to all but a few animals.

Where lush earth once boasted fields rich with crops and supported herds of healthy goats and sheep, there is now choking dust.

This is the reality for thousands of people desperately trying to scratch out a life in the rural areas of Somaliland, a stable and peaceful self-proclaimed independent state to the north of Somalia on the Horn of Africa.

A few hours south west of Hargeisa, the capital, a dirt track leads to a handful of villages.

Criss-crossing the dry mud is the occasional strip of dark brown – land that has been cultivated in the vain and desperate hope that rain may be around the corner.

Ahmed Mohamoud, who works for the charity Action Aid, pointed to the scarred land.

In Somaliland with @DominicHarris8 to see work being done by @ActionAidUK and @careintuk to help villagers on verge of famine due to drought pic.twitter.com/eqd1vciuf9

— Joe Giddens (@jjgiddens) May 11, 2017

“This would all be green grass,” he explained. “Maize and sorghum, a cereal grass, and cash crops like water melon and onions. But now it’s empty, because the drought is coming again and again, different years.”

The rainy season was meant to start on March 23, but there has been very little.

“The land is turning into desert,” Mr Mohamoud said. “Before, if you talk to the old people, they say this land used to be green, a lot of grass everywhere, but now it’s empty for a long time.

“We are losing types of grasses and the landscape is changing. It’s been like this for the last 10, 15 years maybe. The last three years they don’t get anything, and it seems like year after year the rain is getting less and less. It is climate change, and with that we are not getting as much rain as before.”

A man herds camels on the outskirts of Hargeisa, Somaliland (Joe Giddens/PA)
A man herds camels on the outskirts of Hargeisa, Somaliland (Joe Giddens/PA)

The drought has left Somaliland, like other countries in East Africa, on the brink of famine.

Tens of thousands, if not more, have been forced to leave their villages, venturing to the cities and camps for internally displaced people in desperate search of food, water and the hope of a little work.

But for those who choose to stay in the countryside, or are too weak to leave, life is uncertain with a sense of foreboding.

The land yields no food, livestock are dying and there are grave fears people themselves may not be far behind.

But where the land and weather has let them down, aid agencies and charities offer hope.

In Somaliland, Action Aid is working to reach more than 13,860 people in some of the most drought-stricken areas, delivering food to 7,500 people and water to 3,600.

Women and children wait for their food distribution from charity Action Aid in Gumar, Somaliland (Joe Giddens/PA)
Women and children wait for their food distribution from charity Action Aid in Gumar, Somaliland (Joe Giddens/PA)

Among the villages to benefit is Sayla Bari, where 45 of the weakest and most vulnerable families selected by the community receive food aid, part of a four-month programme funded by the Disasters Emergency Committee through British donors.

At the distribution centre, one of 23 across Somaliland, the chosen few queued patiently while sacks of flour, sugar and rice were piled high, topped off with a large tin of dates and a bottle of coconut oil.

Once complete, the signal went up that they could take it away, and men, women and children scurried around hoisting sacks into wheelbarrows and on to shoulders to be taken home.

.@joegiddens @decappeal @ActionAid @careintuk . Here in the village of Sayla Bari @ActionAid has delivered rice, sugar, flour, dates and cooking oil to 45 of the neediest households pic.twitter.com/CE5FlJfHiz

— Dominic Harris (@DominicHarris8) May 11, 2017

The monthly food drop will last a family of six for 50 days, Mr Mohamoud explained.

“Not all of them are from the village, some people are from the countryside where they rear livestock.

“But they have lost their livestock and their livelihood is weakened, so they don’t have other alternatives. The only thing that now they depend on is the food aid. With this they can live.”

Hinda Adan, a 42-year-old mother of four, was receiving food for the third time.

Villager Hinda Adan during the food distribution from charity Action Aid in Sayla Bari, Somaliland (Joe Giddens/PA)
Villager Hinda Adan during the food distribution from charity Action Aid in Sayla Bari, Somaliland (Joe Giddens/PA)

Among the villages to benefit is Sayla Bari, where 45 of the weakest and most vulnerable families selected by the community receive food aid, part of a four-month programme funded by the Disasters Emergency Committee through British donors.

At the distribution centre, one of 23 across Somaliland, the chosen few queued patiently while sacks of flour, sugar and rice were piled high, topped off with a large tin of dates and a bottle of coconut oil.

Once complete, the signal went up that they could take it away, and men, women and children scurried around hoisting sacks into wheelbarrows and on to shoulders to be taken home.

.@joegiddens @decappeal @ActionAid @careintuk . Here in the village of Sayla Bari @ActionAid has delivered rice, sugar, flour, dates and cooking oil to 45 of the neediest households pic.twitter.com/CE5FlJfHiz

— Dominic Harris (@DominicHarris8) May 11, 2017

The monthly food drop will last a family of six for 50 days, Mr Mohamoud explained.

“Not all of them are from the village, some people are from the countryside where they rear livestock.

“But they have lost their livestock and their livelihood is weakened, so they don’t have other alternatives. The only thing that now they depend on is the food aid. With this they can live.”

Hinda Adan, a 42-year-old mother of four, was receiving food for the third time.

Source: shropshirestar

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