Somali herders feed thatched roofs of homes to starving cattle in drought-stricken villages

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Jeelle oo saca u haray bal uga dejinaya muddulkiisa/Muxyadiin Xusni/Ergo Photo | Jelle pulls down his thatched roof to feed his last starving cow/Muxyadiin Xusni/Ergo

Radio Ergo 08 February, 2017 BAY


(ERGO) - Jelle Amin Ali has started taking down the thatched roof of the second family hut to feed to his last cow, hoping to keep the precious animal alive until rain comes.

It may be a thankless task.

“I have this one hut left and I have already pulled down one side of the roof. I am planning to feed this cow with portions of the grass slowly,” he told Radio Ergo's reporter, who visited him in his village in southern Somalia's Bay region.  

Jelle has already pulled down the roof of his other hut and dismantled his thatched ‘bakaar’ (traditional food store) to feed to the cows. Still, five cows have died since he started feeding them the thatch a few weeks ago.

Altogether since last August, Jama, 30, has lost 14 cows in the worsening drought. Cows are vulnerable animals and cannot survive long without grass.

He and his wife and six children are now sleeping in one of the huts covered with some plastic sheets and in the other hut with half the roof gone.

Their food store is totally empty. Sometime Jama hires a donkey cart costing 20,000 Somali shillings ($1) to go and fetch water from Baidoa 14 km away. When he is there he calls on relatives in the town asking for any food they can spare so he can take something back for the family.

Many families in Bay region have moved away from their villages after losing their livestock and their shelters. There are only 50 families living in Salbuy. They have all lost their livestock and 20 of them are now without proper shelter, having fed their thatched roofs to the animals.  

This area has not had rain for two years. Water catchments dried up more than a year ago.  

The same is happening in other villages around Baidoa. Amino Sheikh Aden, 50, a single mother in Misgale, 18 km from the town, is living with her three children and four grandchildren in a hut open to the sky.  She fed the thatch to her six cows a few weeks ago, but four of them died.  She sold off the last two cows for just 1,600,000 Somali shillings (around $70) and is now living off this cash. Before the drought, a cow was worth 10 million Somali shillings.

Amino said she will have no choice when the money runs out but to join one of the camps for internally displaced people in Baidoa.  

However, the people in these camps do not get any regular assistance. The drought response committee of South West administration last distributed food aid to some IDP families in December.

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