Reports of people moving north to find food as Somalia's drought conditions worsen

Somalia, July 7, 2011

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People affected by drought, conflict and limited access to humanitarian aid in Bay, Bakool, Lower and Middle Shabelle, Lower and Middle Juba, and Gedo regions of southern Somalia are fleeing north to find food and a better life. Many are searching for a place to stay around towns and villages in Central Somalia — Abudwak, Adado, Guriel and Balanballe — and some are continuing on to Galkaiyo, Garowe and Bosaso.

The majority of people coming are women and young children who were dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Many of their husbands had left earlier in search of jobs in northern Somalia, Kenya or Yemen. Now, these mothers are in search of food for their children. They have left their homes and possessions behind without any idea of whether they will be able to go back to them in the future.

People coming from the south catch rides on lorries that are involved in trade between Bosaso and Mogadishu and get dropped off at mosques or public spaces along the way to receive assistance from their new host communities. Many caught rides for free after explaining their situation to the drivers and traders.

Some of these new internally-displaced people (IDPs) have reported that older IDP settlements in these towns have turned them away. Some can be seen going from door to door asking for donations, and never receiving enough. The host community shares, but is getting tired of the constant influx of people. The newcomers sleep outside without shelter. They don’t know what they will do next — they only care about finding food and shelter for now. The mothers are worried primarily about their children.

Some of their neighbors and relatives also fled the south, headed for Kenya or Ethiopia. The families who have come north within Somalia favored the trip on the lorry to the challenging walk to cross a border. They have heard stories of children dying en route to the border and Al Shabaab stopping people from leaving Somalia.

A Mercy Corps Program Officer in Galkaiyo is surprised because, “The IDPs are so many now — even more than the inhabitants in some of the villages. When you look at them, you can see the signs of hardship on their faces.”

In Garowe, people from southern Somalia could be seen in search of daily labor for awhile, but now the numbers are increasing. “You cannot guess the numbers because they are coming daily. The number is increasing hour after hour,” the Program Officer said.