A Somali boy’s quest to find food amid climate change causes a lot of damage According to Reuters


© Reuters. Bashir Nur Salat poses for a photo with classmates at Kabasa Primary School in Dollow, Gedo Region, Somalia May 25, 2022. Photo taken May 25, 2022. REUTERS / Feisal Omar


By Katharine Houreld

DOLLOW, Somalia (Reuters) – Every morning in this Somali border town, 11-year-old Bashir Nur Salat outlines his day’s mission behind a winding wire fence. Armed only with a friend’s yellow school shirt, a borrowed book and a grin, he peered through the grid at his winning prize: lunch.

Bashir lives at the convergence of three crises – global warming, rising food prices, and war. He, like millions of others in Somalia, is facing what some aid workers call the “Three Cs”: climate change, costs and conflict.

The worst drought in four decades in war-torn Somalia forced his family to leave their farm three months ago and move about 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) north to the town of Dollow. , on the border with Ethiopia.

Now, he leads a group of young children who gather as Kabasa Elementary School serves food to students. Through the school’s steel fence, the children gazed at students munching on warm porridge or plates of beans and corn served as part of a United Nations-supported program, one of the few supplies. regular food in town.

Many in the group were among the newest inflows to Dollow, too late to sign up for school. One by one, they slipped through the broken gate and dashed across the dusty schoolyard for a meal when the teacher wasn’t looking.

“When I couldn’t get food, I was very hungry: I lay down and couldn’t sleep,” Bashir said quietly. He had not eaten dinner the night before nor had breakfast that morning. The eight siblings at home, he said, were all hungry.

Many scientists and humanitarian organizations say the drought, which started last year, is forecast to get worse, exacerbated by climate change. A third of the livestock died of thirst or starvation. Crops and fruit trees have withered.

Somalia, ravaged by a long-standing Muslim insurgency, needs to import more food, but its people cannot afford it. Foreign aid is drying up and food prices are skyrocketing due to the war in Ukraine, the world’s fourth-largest grain exporter.

At least 448 children have died since January while being treated for acute malnutrition, the United Nations says. These numbers are likely to be a fraction of the true death toll as many people will not be able to contact help.

The United Nations this month warned that more than a third of Somalia’s 16 million people need food aid to survive. Some areas may face famine this month. Aid in some places will run out in June.


The Bashirs had never left their home in south-central Somalia before, even when the 2011 famine claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people, most of them children. Aid workers say the death toll could approach that level again during this drought.

The Bashir family did not move after that. Some of the cattle survived, so they stayed on their farm near the village of Ceel Bon.

Not this time. The drought has taken away all 12 of their cows and 21 goats – a huge fortune in a country where wealth is only measured in livestock. The family used to enjoy three meals a day: the creamy milk from the family’s cows has now been reduced to scattered bones; and beans and sorghum from the fields are now dry and cracked.

“I’ve never seen a drought like this before,” said Bashir’s 30-year-old mother. She and her nine children now sleep on two mattresses in Dollow.

On a clear day, Bashir’s father could make $2 from selling coal in a nearby town, but as of May 2, he has only deposited $10 due to lack of work. The family has not received any food aid, she said.

Such desperation will become more common in Somalia, and beyond, as rising temperatures cause more natural disasters, many scientists say, many scientists say. Over the past 50 years, extreme weather events have increased fivefold worldwide, according to the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The Horn of Africa, which includes Somalia, is at its driest on record. The rains from March to April this year – the first of the two annual rainy seasons – are the smallest in 70 years, and the second rain from October to December is also expected to be unusually dry. following a warning last month from a group. of 14 meteorological and humanitarian associations, including WMO.

“We’ve never seen a drought four seasons before, and now we’re likely to see another drought,” said climatologist Chris Funk from the Climate Hazards Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Thursday” in October.

“This drought is more likely to be caused by climate change,” Funk said.

The El-Nino-La Nina weather cycle halfway around the world in the Pacific is partly influencing the warm, dry air over Somalia, as well as the Dipole climate pattern in the Indian Ocean. When the Dipole is positive, it is warmer in the western part of the Indian Ocean and more precipitation falls than in East Africa. Currently, the Dipole is forecasted to be negative by the WMO through the end of the year, causing a drought on the Horn.

But that alone doesn’t explain the sharp drop in spring rains over the past 20 years, Funk said.

Ocean warming may also play a part. Climate scientist Abubakr Salih Babiker of the WMO Regional Office for Africa said the Indian Ocean is one of the fastest warming bodies of water in the world.

With the oceans absorbing most of the increasing atmospheric heat, scientists believe that the warming Indian Ocean could evaporate and rain down faster over the ocean before reaching the Horn of Africa, leaving behind Dry air sweeps over land.

Another factor: air temperatures in Somalia have risen by an average of 1.7 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average — 1.2 degrees faster than the global average, Babiker said. Warmer air speeds up evaporation from the soil and plants.

The Horn of Africa has seen other climate-related disasters in recent years – damaging floods, record numbers of tornadoes and vast swarms of locusts – sending the region reeling from the crisis after crisis, he said.

“There’s no time to recuperate,” Babiker said.


The children’s department at Dollow Hospital is full of listless patients, as are the obstetrics and outpatient departments.

Each bed was occupied when Reuters visited in May, with the height-to-weight ratio sometimes turning red. Severe malnutrition, some children have severe infections, including measles.

At the school where Bashir went foraging, 10-year-old Suleko Mohammed says she lost three siblings to measles in the span of six weeks – two brothers, aged 2 and 3, and an older sister who once helped her with the chores. homework.

Now they lie under rubble and thorny branches in a graveyard next to the playground. As she spoke between classes, the mourners were digging another small grave.

Down the street, market stalls sell watermelons, mangoes, beans, and bags of flour – too expensive for many.

Food prices have risen by as much as 160% in parts of Somalia, due to drought and global supply disruptions from the conflict in Ukraine. Even in good times, Somalia imports more than half of its food.

The government has become alarmed by what it says is a slow international aid response, with drought envoy Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame saying countries need to “pay attention to this drought before it becomes a problem”. starvation.”

“All human life is equal,” he told Reuters. “The international community, especially Western nations, is paying more attention to Ukraine than other crises.”

So far, Somalia has received only 18 percent of the $1.46 billion it needs in humanitarian aid this year, according to United Nations figures – far below last year’s response. By contrast, Ukraine received 71% of the $2.25 billion requested in six months. Senior UN officials have repeatedly sounded the alarm about the lack of aid in the Horn of Africa to tackle the worsening drought.


Dollow is better served by aid agencies than most Somali towns and is one of the safest places from al Qaeda-linked insurgency, one of the world’s longest-running conflicts. .

More than 520 aid workers have been kidnapped, wounded or killed in the past 15 years – most of them Somali. In Dollow, Ethiopian soldiers patrolled the streets and kept order.

Kabasa Elementary School was established in response to a wave of families devastated by the 2011 famine. Enrollment rebounded during the 2016-17 drought, when early humanitarian intervention kept the mortality rate in low.

Rania Degesh, deputy regional director for East and South Africa at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said about a fifth of students often leave school during difficult times and never return.

“When you uproot children, you expose them to incredible risks: exploitation, gender-based violence, early marriage, recruitment, abandonment,” says Degesh.

The meal program entices them to stay at school. The United Nations World Food Program says schools in Somalia charge 41 US cents per child for two meals a day.

But dwindling funds have been forced to cut back on the program to support 110,000 Somali children. New schools start two months off; There is no funding when classes return in August.

Teachers say Bashir and his gang are among at least 50 unregistered children who show up daily in the hope of a meal. Sometimes, teachers pushed them back. Sometimes, they provide leftovers. Sometimes they ignore it.

“If they eat food, it won’t be enough for the students,” Kasaba’s principal, Abdikarim Dahir Ga’al, said as he watched Bashir’s gang storm the school grounds.

Ga’al pretended not to notice. It is the last day of the term.

“I am a teacher,” he said. “But I’m also a parent.”

Outside, Bashir scrambled among the last of the students to receive their meals, triumphantly emerging from the rubble with a metal plate of beans and mashed corn.

He grinned and held his head high. In the end, he will eat.

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