(ERGO) – Amino Ahmed Adan, her elderly husband, and their six children are hungry and short of water and sleeping outside under a tree in Kulub, after sand buried their house for the second time in this coastal village in Somalia’s central Mudug region.
“The lack of shelter has really affected us badly,” Amino told Radio Ergo’s local correspondent. “Our house is one of those that were buried, our house is now under the sand that we walk on! We are impoverished people and we don’t know where to go. We are living in hardship.”
They are among 226 families forced to abandon their houses and move to higher ground to escape mounting sand dunes blown in from the sea.
Amino and family were living in a two-room house, one of about 150 houses built by CARE International five years ago. However, since last November they have been buffeted by strong offshore winds pushing huge amounts of sand across the small settlement, burying homes.
They are now living on a sack of sorghum given by the Somali Red Crescent Society. Amino’s smallest children cannot eat sorghum so she has to go out begging to buy them softer food. She sometimes spends eight hours a day begging to get food for them.
The family used to earn a living from fisheries. Amino’s eldest son was a fisherman although he became unemployed due to the constant violent attacks on local fishermen by foreign trawlers.
“Since we lived near the shore, we depended on the ocean for a living. There are so many foreign boats at night that they light up the ocean, you might think it’s daytime out at sea. My son has not worked at sea for some time now,” she said.
The shifting sand also buried the well that provided people with water. The nearest water now comes from Garad, 15 kilometres away, and costs $7 per barrel.
Amino cannot afford such prices so she buys on credit from local businesspeople who buy water to store and sell in smaller amounts. She only takes one jerrycan a day, which is far less than they need. Still, she already owes $150 for water and has been informed that they will no longer enjoy credit unless they settle the debt.
Two of her children have a nervous system disorder and she says their health condition has worsened since they were displaced by the sand dunes. Her elderly husband is bedridden.
Another Kulub resident, Abdikadir Hassan Yusuf and his family of seven, had to abandon their three room house on 20 November after it was buried. They have also moved further away from the coastline but have no shelter. They are sleeping outside although there is hardly any vegetation to shelter behind from the gusty wind.
“We are feeling cold, you can understand what it’s like to people whose houses were buried and they don’t have other houses, there is sand constantly blowing over us. We have been neglected and we don’t have other houses to move to,” he said.
Abdullahi was a fisherman and dropped out due to the insecurity on the sea caused by foreign trawlers.
The families received $70 cash aid from the Somali Red Crescent for three months between September and November, when most people were displaced.
The shops in Kulub have closed and it is very difficult for food trucks to reach them due to the sandy terrain and blocked roads.
Abdullahi has bought $50 worth of water on credit already and has been refused further credit from the local suppliers. He said the situation remains as desperate as it is now, they will have to migrate again to Garad, where he believes they could get a better life.
The commissioner of Kulub, Mohamed Jama Farah, forecast that most residents are likely to be displaced again. The sand dunes have already led to the shutdown of hospitals and schools.
He said they have not had feedback to their requests for more help from aid organisations and the Puntland administration.
He blames the prolonged drought for leading to the loss of vegetation cover that has allowed the wind erosion to become so severe.
“The prolonged drought conditions have led to loss of the vegetation. There is water shortage in the area, there are no hospitals, we don’t have social amenities and no one has reached us,” he complained.