Somalia’s worst drought in decades has millions of people dependent on food aid and thousands flocking to cities to escape hunger. At makeshift shelters on the outskirts of the capital, displaced people face cramped conditions and poor sanitation in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Somali villagers escaping drought are arriving every day in camps for internally displaced people on the outskirts of the capital, Mogadishu.
At the Najah camp, 45-year-old mother of four Muhubo Adam is cooking what food she has for her family. They arrived last week after fleeing her village in Lower Shabelle, some 90 kilometers away.
She said they had to leave because they had no rain for two seasons and the drought devastated livestock and farms. Adam said they spent a whole day trekking to get to the camp.
But conditions in the crowded camp are also difficult. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, nobody is wearing a mask, there is no room to socially distance, and sanitation is poor.
Fifty-six-year-old Nur Hassan Ali looks much older than his age and appears weak as he slowly moves past the camp’s makeshift tents.
He and his family of six also fled hunger in their village last week but are not doing much better near the city.
Ali said his livestock began to die because of the long drought, so he had to run away with his children and finally reached the camp. But now here, he said, they don’t have anything, and his children are hungry and don’t have any food. Ali said that he is also sick.
District authorities put Faisa Omar in charge of keeping track of new arrivals to the camp.
She said the Najah camp is home to 370 families who have recently been displaced by drought and whose livestock was wiped out. Omar said they are not receiving any assistance, either from the government or from aid agencies. She said they lack shelter from the sun, the cold, and the rain.
But it’s a lack of rain back home that forced the influx of villagers to Mogadishu.
It’s putting a strain on the city’s health care system, which was struggling even before the pandemic, said Martino Hospital Director Dr. Abdirizaq Yusuf.
He said the drought comes at a time when they are grappling with the burden of a recurrence of COVID-19.
Yusuf said the drought has only added a further burden on the already existing COVID-19 problem, which has caused sickness and death. He said the drought is causing its own pain and plight as it also spreads disease.
The government and U.N. aid agencies have warned that millions of people in Somalia are in urgent need of food assistance.
Officials say thousands of refugees living in camps near Mogadishu are also vulnerable to diseases from poor sanitation, congestion, and dirty water.