In the past three months, Amina Ibrahim Shirwa and her family have lost around 25 goats, sheep and cows as a harsh drought has ravaged livestock and crops in northern Somalia.
The 50-year-old, who lives outside Botor village in the semi-autonomous Somaliland region, fears for her family’s livelihood after several successive poor rainy seasons made worse by El Nino conditions in the Horn of Africa.
Outside her family compound, just a few of her livestock remain. Nearby, dead sheep lie on the ground.
While rain finally arrived here this month, its intensity has flooded fields and killed frail, malnourished livestock, too weak to produce milk or with little meat.
“Most of my animals have died due to the lack of rain. The weak ones left are dying now because of the rains that have come,” she said. “We have lost most of our livelihood. There is very little money to buy food or to plant crops.”
Across the Horn of Africa, millions have been hit by the severe El Nino-related drought. In Somaliland and the neighbouring, also semi-autonomous, Puntland region, 1.7 million people in are in need of aid, according to the United Nations.
In Somaliland itself, the most affected areas include the northwest Awdal region bordering Ethiopia. Many families there say they are losing their last surviving animals, their livelihood, and have little money to work their fields.
More than 250,000 people died in a 2011 famine that hit Somalia, a state long plagued by poverty, recurrent drought, hunger and an Islamist insurgency. Some Somaliland residents say this drought is the worst in decades.
Images of the impact of the drought in Somaliland can be seen a Reuters Wider Image photo essay
Outside the town of Qol Ujeed, animal carcasses scatter the dry bushland landscape, one of them a scrawny camel.
“Not even the hyenas will come and eat it at night, there is so little meat on it,” said an elderly man who had owned the animal.
Around 700 families from across Awdal have made their way to a makeshift camp in Qol Ujeed. But aid workers fear a longterm stay will make it worse for them.
“If they settle in this camp, it will get more difficult for them move out in future, their situation will worsen,” said Richard Trenchard, head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation’s office for Somalia, adding families needed help towards livestock re-stocking and financial aid to work fields.
The United Nations has appealed for $105 million to provide humanitarian and livelihood assistance.