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No food for man nor beast

Farmers who once grew fruit and herded goats in Somalia now rely on water from Red Crescent for survival.

Wednesday March 1, 2017

East Africa drough
Caption: Goats and cattle are dying in the thousands, as grazing land and water sources vanish across East Africa. Photos: Finnish Red Cross/Aapo Huhta

"Only rain could make me smile," sighs Deik Ibrahim Hassan, who has eight children to feed.

Before the drought, he and his neighbours in the village of Hara-Adad grew corn, soybeans and vegetables. His herd of cows, goats and sheep provided meat and milk, and had plenty to graze on near the village.

Then came the El Niño climate cycle, amped up by climate change. The rains came at the wrong time, for the wrong length of time, and then not at all.

Now the earth is barren and dusty, and cannot provide food for man nor beast.

"Even if it rained now, we could not till the soil and plant seeds because we have no animals to help with the work. We never had tractors here," says Deik.

There used to be some 600 families in the village of Hara-Adad, which the older generation remembers as being in a green and fruitful land. More than half the families have left for Hargeisa, the capital of Somalia, or other towns, looking for food and water. Many of the traditional huts, still covered in bright textiles, are empty.

Very early in the morning, the water transport wagon arrives in Hara-Adad and empties its load into a deep basin dug into the earth.

Driven by the Somali Red Crescent Society, the water wagon has become a lifeline for someĀ villages. When it leaves, the water basin in Hara-Adad comes alive. Women in colourful clothes come to get water and carry it home in yellow cans.

"I could not live without this help," says Adar Aden, who has come to fetch water. "All my children live elsewhere. I am all alone."

Once the people have taken their share of the water, the few remaining cows and goats get what's left. Then they move on into the hot desert to gnaw at the dry bushes. Nothing green and edible can be seen.

Original story by Leena Reikko for Finnish Red Cross.

Drought and hunger can be beaten
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