As famine grips communities in the Horn of Africa, strong women like Nimo in Somaliland are taking the lead to meet the urgent needs of their families. The burden of responsibility weighs heavily upon the shoulders of these women and it is critical that their needs are met during relief and recover efforts.
An El-Nino driven drought runs into its third year in the Horn of Africa and 12 million people in communities across Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are in critical need of humanitarian assistance.
Nimo, a mother of three in Somaliland, has watched the drought sap the life out of her land and livestock over the past year. Rains were expected to come last December, but with each passing day, they failed to arrive and Nimo edged towards making the toughest decision of her life. She left her two-year-old son with distant relatives and went in search of water. It’s a choice that continues to haunt her.
I cannot sleep in the night thinking about him, I wonder whether he is still alive.
Failed harvests and the mass death of livestock have not only caused extreme hunger, it has ripped families apart as parents are forced to leave their homes in search of food, water and new ways of making a living.
Indeed, as in all emergencies, it is women who are taking on the heaviest burden in caring for their families and communities. In Somaliland, many women are travelling long distances in search of water and sustenance for their families.
After leaving her toddler behind, Nimo walked for eight days, with her six-month-old baby bundled under one arm and her four-year-old son holding the other. She was looking for precious water. What she found was a trail of carcasses.
Somaliland’s sweeping red landscape is littered with the corpses of camels, cattle and goats – animals that represent many poor Somali’s life-savings and the backbone of their economy. Almost 30 percent of GDP comes from the industry, according to the World Bank. The drought has wiped out 80% of livestock in eastern Somaliland and grazing land is now all but gone.
Our animals are too weak to make milk or meat and too scraggy to sell in the market. I breastfeed my six months old son, but he cannot get enough milk as I don’t have food.
As is the case in many rural communities in the Horn of Africa, people are hungry, people are struggling to make ends meet, and people are fighting for survival.
Women like Nimo are key to ensuring that their families survive the drought and can rebuild their communities in years to come. ActionAid is working closely with local women and women’s coalitions to ensure that women and their needs are not overlooked during relief efforts.