Wednesday, July 10, 2019

In Somalia, the climate emergency is already here. The world cannot ignore it

Mustapha Tahir
July 8, 2019


In recent years, the frequency and duration of these dry spells has increased. As it does so, the capacity of people to resist these shocks decreases. Every drought depletes their assets: their animals will die, their crops will fail, they will have nothing to sell and next season they won’t have money to buy seeds to plant again. In desperation, pastoralists sell their animals at a giveaway price, leaving them even more vulnerable. Doing so significantly reduces their number of cattle to below the minimum threshold required to continue raising livestock. At this point they begin to flee and become displaced, often in informal camps near urban settlements.


The current drought has led to more and more people like Geelo Ahmed Osman, displaced from their homes and reliant on support from the international community. About half of the country’s population is in need of emergency assistance. If they don’t receive this, we are very likely to see a full-scale famine before the end of the year. Lack of water does not just have nutritional implications: it spreads disease. If people don’t have water to wash at critical times, they can’t stem the spread of disease, which becomes inevitable in crowded IDP camps. Things such as diarrhoea, if untreated, can be fatal to children.

Aid agencies need more funding, and not just for immediate assistance. With the climate crisis increasing these kinds of events in frequency and intensity, we could be in this exact same situation next year, the year after, and on and on. So while the first phase of intervention should be emergency response, we then need to build resilience so people are better prepared for the future and not reliant on handouts from the international community.


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