Home IDPS/REFUGEES Somali farming families flee as Shabelle river floods wash them into poverty

Somali farming families flee as Shabelle river floods wash them into poverty

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Saynab Mohamed, displaced with her eight children from their flooded farm in Jowhar to an IDP camp in Mogadishu/Naima Said Salah/Ergo

(ERGO) – Saynab Mohamed Osman woke up at midnight to find their house, on a small farm near the river in southern Somalia’s Jowhar district, filling up with flood water. She quickly roused her eight children and they managed to flee to safety, but without time to carry any of their belongings from the house.

Saynab and her children are among the hundreds of farming families displaced by flooding of the river Shabelle, who are now facing a lack of food, shelter, and water in various displacement camps in Mogadishu.

In Jowhar, Saynab was able to provide for her family from the sale of their farm produce, making 300 Somali shillings daily.

“I used to farm tomatoes, maize, pumpkin and beans. I sold the farm produce in the market. My family had no problem with food, we even used to buy meat,” she said.

Not knowing how they would survive after losing all their crops, the morning after the disaster she paid 200 Somali shillings for a vehicle to Balad, 60 kilometres south of Jowhar. From there they took a week walking the roughly 40 kilometres to Al-rahma IDP camp in Deynile district on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

“We are sleeping in this hall with the rest of the flood-displaced families. We share mats and we need a shelter,” she said.

They are eating one meal distributed by the Al-rahma camp leaders to the 200 families in a similar situation. The food is collected from other camp residents and cooked in one big pot.

Halimo Shidde Nurre, 75, suffered similar dramatic losses as the river invaded their home, washing away her livelihood and savings, and separating her from her mentally ill daughter in the mayhem.

“She was the mother of four children. I don’t know whether she is alive or dead! I searched for her everywhere but I couldn’t find her,” Halimo told Radio Ergo in great distress.

Halimo reached Al-rahma IDP camp with her disabled husband on 10 May after fleeing the floods that destroyed their house, farm, 14 goats, two cows, and 10 chickens.

She and her husband and four grandchildren crammed into a vehicle rented by neighbours to get to Balad. The driver wanted too much money to take them to Mogadishu, so Halimo’s family stayed in Balad until she was able to beg 300 Somali shillings for a vehicle to Al-rahma camp.

“I haven’t eaten anything today. Since morning I only had one cup of coffee. The little cooked rice we receive as a family is not even enough for the children. It is tough here,” she complained.

Halimo used to make 200-300 Somali shillings daily from the sale of farm produce, and she also earned 20-30 dollars on some days building traditional Somali homes, a skill she was famous for in her village.

She told Radio Ergo she had buried her savings in a hole inside their house but she was unable to extract the money due to the depth of the floodwater. She was bitten on her foot by an unknown creature in the water as she searched for her daughter in the dark.

The chairman of Al-rahma camp, Abdikarim Ahmed Yusuf, said the families were facing great hardship. They had not received any external help and the food the camp authorities were able to distribute was inadequate.

“Their biggest needs are food and shelter. These families have nothing at all, they lost their wealth to the floods,” he said.

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