East Africa crisis: One family’s struggle to survive

Amina Suleiman Gas stands amidst the carcasses of her dead animals, piled for burning outside the compound where she lives

Amina Suleiman Gas has lived for 10 years in Barwako village, 20km into the desert from Anaibo town, central Somaliland. Barwako was a village of 100 families but 245 more have come in from the surrounding area because of the drought.

Amina is a member of the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) who have shared all their savings with the displaced families. Now they have nothing left. “We shared everything with them,”Amina says.

Amina herding goats in her compound
Amina with some of her surviving livestock, themselves reduced to little more than skin and bones

Last week Amina lost 18 of her animals, now she is left with 12. She sent most of her livestock west with her neighbour in November 2016 when the drought began to get worse, and she fears they have not survived.

An emaciated cow in Somaliland
One of Amina’s last six remaining cows

Here, as in all of rural Somalia, livestock is the backbone of the economy. Most people are pastoralists who depend on their animals for a livelihood, and everyone else depends on pastoralists for their businesses.

But after four consecutive seasons of failed rains over three years, the region is experiencing a drought on a scale not seen since 1974. Most of the livestock have died, and the remaining animals are barely surviving. Now, Amina says,

We feed our livestock paper mixed with water. They think it is food.

Amina feeding two of her goats
Amina feeding two of her goats with a mixture of water and cardboard
Asma giving water to a young calf
Amina’s daughter, 11-year-old Asma Awale Ibrahim, gives a small amount of water to the family’s last remaining calf

With livestock dying and the economy devastated, people have no money left to buy food for themselves and their families. CARE has been distributing food aid in Anaibo to people from the surrounding area, but as the drought continues and famine looms, more help is urgently needed.

Amina preparing rice distributed by CARE
Amina prepares rice, part of a CARE International food aid distribution, inside her home compound
Amina's daughter Sowda in the family compound
Amina’s daughter, 6-year-old Sowda Awale Ibrahim, inside the family home compound

Since the drought situation became critical in October 2016, CARE’s emergency response in Somalia has helped more than 300,000 people, including 200,000 people who have received water assistance. But as people hold out in hope of the next rainfall season, the crisis faced by families like Amina’s is only getting worse. Please donate to the East Africa Crisis Appeal and help CARE deliver emergency assistance to the people of Somalia.

donate now

CARE's picture

News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.