Somali farming and herding families walk for days to find water and food in Baidoa

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(ERGO) –Hilowlay Ali Mohamed has been a farmer for decades, continuing a long family tradition, and never once thought she would one day leave her home begging for aid.   

But after a long walk from her drought-stricken village in southern Somalia’s Bay region, she found herself this month setting up a flimsy shelter for her six children in a newly formed camp for internally displaced people in the regional capital Baidoa. 

“I have an eight-hectare farm where I grow millet, maize, and beans,” Hilowlay said.  “Life was very smooth until our land turned barren due to continued rain failure.” 

“We left our village with nothing and on our way, we begged in villages to get something to eat,” said the mother of six. 

Hilowlay decided to leave her home and farm in Deb-weyne village along with six other families after the rains failed on three consecutive seasons. They had no food or water left. They trekked for six days to Baidoa hoping to find help. 

They spent several nights sleeping outside, before forming a new camp called Qansahdere. 

 “You can see what kind of a house we live in. It is made of sticks and old cloths and does not protect us from the cold and rain. We have nothing to eat,” Hilowlay told Radio Ergo bitterly 

Around 1,000 farming and pastoralist families have descended on Baidoa in recent days after abandoning their villages in Bay region in search of water and food. 

However, Hilowlay says she has not received any support from aid agencies and is disappointed at what they have experienced in town.  

We were expecting a good life but what I have seen here is different from what I had imagined, because life here is worse than what we left.” 

Families from Dinsor, Burhakaba, and Bardere have been arriving, according to Baidoa district deputy commissioner, Adan Arab. 

We have settled them in a new camp and we planned to discuss their issues with the aid agencies. Our role is to welcome these families and do whatever we can do for them,” Adan said. 

It took seven days for Mohamed Nur Mohamed and his children to reach Baidoa after they left their home in a village near Qansahdere town. 

Mohamed told Radio Ergo that he alternated carrying the youngest three of his seven children on his back over the 90 km walk from their village to Baidoa town. 

We had no alternative but to leave the area. On the journey, the conditions were terrible – the children reached a stage where they could not walk anymore due to hunger and thirst and I was forced to carry them, he said. 

Mohamed lost all his livestock in the successive droughts that have hit the region. 

I have no other skill because I was a pastoralist so the only option I had was to come here, but there is no difference here as there is no support yet,” he stated. 

Saido Sheikh Ali, a mother of four, came to the camp from Dinsor in Bay region using a donkey cart to transport her children and their few belongings. 

Saido built a two-metre square hut in the camp for herself and her children using old mats. 

We are suffering a lot because it is cold here and food is scarce My husband died some years back and I have no job to support my family. Sometimes we get to eat and other times do not, so we sleep on empty stomachs,” she explained. 

She asked the local authorities and aid agencies to deliver aid. 

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