Monday February 6, 2023
Hussein and his family under a shed in Farwaamo village, Kismayo Lower Juba regionPhoto: Ayub Ahmed/OCHA
Hussein and his family arrived in Farwaamo village on the outskirts of Kismayo Town, Lower Juba Region, in January. Hussein, his wife and four children including a three-week-old son, were displaced from Turdo village near Jamaame District, an area ravaged by conflict and the drought that is ravaging Somalia.
Hussein was a proud owner of about 200 goats. Over four years, drought claimed his livestock, one-by-one, until he had almost nothing. ‘’I sold the last three goats,” he said. “They were already weak and likely to die. With the little money I received, I transported my family to this village.’’
The livestock was his main source of livelihood. The loss prompted the family to pack their essentials and leave their home in search of assistance. However, they were unable to carry their property given the insecurity in the area. “At the end, we fled with only the clothes on our backs,” laments Hussein.
On arrival in Farwaamo, 60 km from Turdo, the family sought shelter under a tree, which also protects them from the scorching heat. “I will build a tent using sticks and old clothes or sheets with the help of people here,” Hussein said.
About 400 displaced families (about 2,400 people) live in tents and makeshift shelters in Farwaamo village. Access to basic services is limited and the families rely on small earnings from casual labor and relief organizations for survival. Due to lack of sanitation facilities, they practice open defecation, which exposes them to health risks.
According to Mohamed Sheikh, the head of the Jubaland Commission for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (JUCRI), the displaced people living in Farwaamo left their homes due to drought and insecurity resulting from ongoing military operations against Al Shabaab. Together with Qatar Red Crescent, JUCRI was delivering food to the IDPs when OCHA visited the village, each family getting 50 kg of wheat flour, 25 kg of rice, 10 kg of sugar, 5 litres of cooking oil, dates and powdered milk.
Like many displaced people, Hussein is going through a difficult time but he has dreams. Farwaamo is near the Juba River, and it would be possible to farm along the river bank, but, for now, that is a difficult option due to the drought. “The food that I received will help me get by for some time, until I find a casual labor job on one of the neighbouring farms,” said Hussein after he received assistance from JUCRI and Qatar Red Crescent.
Nearby, Maryan sat next to the food package that she had just received. She fled Magaambo Village in Jamaame District, in Lower Juba Region in November 2022. There, she was a farmer but lost her crops over three seasons due to low or no rainfall.
The sole breadwinner for her five children since her husband died of illness five years ago, Maryan said: “I count on relief aid and support from relatives to survive.” Maryan hopes to return home and resume farming, if the rains come. ‘’I miss home and my farm,” she adds. “Before the drought, I was able to put food on the table and my children went to school.”
Partners have stepped up humanitarian assistance in Lower Juba Region. The Qatar Red Crescent and Qatar Charity are targeting over 4,500 families (about 27,000 people) with food assistance in the region.
The World Food Programme and a local NGO, Gargaar Relief Development Organization, carried out a needs assessment to facilitate first-line response through food vouchers for the newly displaced families in Farwaamo. The assessment found that priority needs are food, water, shelter, health and water, sanitation and hygiene services.
Partners are trucking water to several villages in the area, including Farwaamo, Buulo Gaduud and Yoontooy. UNHCR has provided 2,000 displaced families (about 12,000 people) living in the proximity of Kismayo with emergency shelter kits and non-food items. The United Arab Emirates too is providing food assistance.
“People here need more urgent assistance,’ said Sheikh. “Thanks to the donation from Qatar, today we can support about 350 families. However, the needs are huge, and more support is needed to provide water, basic health services, latrines and sanitation services.”
Lifesaving assistance is critical, but it needs to be accompanied by investments in long-term solutions. As humanitarians focus on saving lives and averting famine in Somalia, there is a critical need to invest in livelihoods, resilience, infrastructure development, climate adaptation and durable solutions to ensure those affected can adapt and thrive in the future.