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Somali Drought: 'Every month, we get less to eat'

Ardo Dhunkel, 60, on the road in her village in Somalia

Ardo Dhunkel, 60, on the road in her village in Somalia. All photos: Sarah Easter/CARE

Ardo Dhunkel, 60, on the road in her village in Somalia. All photos: Sarah Easter/CARE

It takes three hours of cross country driving — through the desert, along unsteady trails, with only a few bushes and larger stones as signposts — to finally reach this village where CARE is working. During the current drought, this is the route that trucks transporting urgently needed water and food also have to take.

The villagers here are former livestock farmers, most of whom have lost their animals due to the drought. Some of the villagers still have a remnant herd, but the animals are so weak that they can no longer manage to walk to the water. “We have to bring the water to the animals so that they can drink,” says Ardo Dhunkel, 60, chair of a small savings and loans group established by CARE.

It has not rained enough in Somalia for the last two years, and this village has been particularly hit hard. The streets are dry as dust, and there are hardly any plants or trees that still grow here to provide shade. The wind blows the sand into the eyes, and with every breath the dust sits deeper in the lungs.

400% increase in water prices

Due to the distance and difficulty to reach the village, water deliveries are four times more expensive than in other villages located along the main roads. One water delivery is 40 water barrels, with one barrel holding about 200 liters of water. The village, with about 600 inhabitants, pays roughly $200 for such a delivery. Converted, that is about 13 liters of water per person, which must last for an entire month.

Since the village is far away from other villages and towns, there are hardly any income sources for its inhabitants.

“The only thing we could do was to sell our cattle when the market price was good,” Ardo says. “Now there is no sale. My family still owns about 100 sheep and goats. Before the drought, we owned more than 500. Most of them died because we could not give them water or food.”

Ardo’s children take care of the livestock and move around with the animals to find water and food. However, many of the animals are very weak or sick.

Ardo Dhunkel, 60, cooking lunch in her kitchen in a village in Somalia.

Not enough customers, not enough rain

In the village, Ardo runs a small store, where she sells food, detergent, shoes and other small daily necessities. “It is hard. I don’t have enough customers. Now, most people buy on loan because they no longer have an income due to the current drought,” Ardo reports. She gets her goods delivered from the next largest town, a three-hour drive across the desert. The cost of transportation and food is rising. The price of rice, sugar and wheat for a month has risen from $90 to $130.

“Inflation and the rising market price make it very difficult,” she continues.

“The war in Ukraine is also affecting our prices. Every month, we get less to eat. It will only get better when it finally rains.”

If things continue like this, Ardo will have to close her store because her customers are not able to pay. Though her dream is to expand her store and hire someone to help her.

Ardo Dhunkel, 60, in her small shop in a village in Somalia.

With a feather-duster made of dry grass…

After breakfast — a wheat flour paste — with her granddaughters at 7 a.m., Ardo goes to her store, which is right in front of her house. She opens the doors and starts sorting her goods. The dust and sand of the dry streets is also visible here inside the store on the packages. With a feather duster made of dry grass she removes the coarsest and waits for the first customers. On good days 15 villagers visit her store — usually before the main meals. Around 12:30 p.m., she closes the store for lunch — rice with some meat.

After lunch she is back in her store until 9 p.m. In a big blue book, she writes down all of the loans. Some people have a whole page to themselves, listing up to 30 items they have bought. “No one has the money to even buy rice,” the grandmother says.

Ardo Dhunkel, 60, in her small shop in a village in Somalia looking at her book with all the loans.

A great need to be met

CARE supports Ardo and other villagers with cash assistance. By setting up small savings and loans groups, villagers are also able to get loans for their businesses. “But the drought is also affecting the small savings group,” explains the chairwoman. “We cannot hold our meetings as regularly as we used to because we have to walk very far with our herds of animals to find water. Also, most of the residents do not have the money to save.”

The people of Somalia are in desperate need of support. “We are in great need. We need more help so we can survive,” Ardo concludes.

Adro Dhunkel in her shop

Here is how CARE helps people in this village affected by drought in Somalia:

In addition to cash assistance and small savings groups, CARE is helping the village by maintaining and constructing water tanks. CARE has also built a well. But the groundwater tastes very sour and is mostly used for livestock. But when the need is as great as it is now, this water is also used for drinking.

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