Somalia: Climate change and conflict threaten herders


International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Conflict and the growing climate crisis are pushing herders in Somalia to abandon their way of life, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned.

Erratic weather patterns, droughts and floods have taken their toll on Somali pastoralists, while conflict, COVID-19 and the recent locust infestations have made matters worse.

Stark new footage from the East African nation lays bare the struggles facing herders. Ahmed Mohamud, a herder, said he has lost 50 of his 70 camels while other herders have lost all their livestock.

“There’s no food. The ground is dry,” he said. “This country is known for its refugees. If you lose your animals, you sign up as a refugee, that's what we say. So, there are many people who lost their animals and signed up as refugees.”

Dwindling herds have become commonplace as vegetation, a source of food for the animals, becomes harder to find.  

The recurrent nature of climatic shocks, such as droughts and floods, mean herders have little chance to recover. The instability created by conflict further weakens their ability to adapt and find alternative grazing areas.   

Mohamed Hassan Gure, another herder, said: “The latest drought, 2021, is the one that destroyed the animals. Before they recovered from the previous drought they were hit by others. Like the locusts. The locusts ate the pastures.

“So the animals did not get anything to eat and that is how they died. There was nothing to give them. They didn't have anything to feed on. We were left with 50 animals. Out of the 50, 30 were killed by the rains. Now 20 are left.”

He added: “Only God knows, but we wonder whether our way of life is in danger. If the droughts continue and the animals get fewer, this way of life is in real danger.”

The frequency of climate-related crises in Somalia is increasing. More than 30 climate-related hazards, including droughts and floods, have hit the country since 1990 – a threefold increase compared to similar events between 1970 and 1990 (OCHA). The recurrent nature of such events makes recovery difficult for communities.

Somalia is ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change by the ND-GAIN Country Index when it comes to its ability to improve resilience.

Three decades of conflict have weakened the country’s institutions and left some 2.9 million people internally displaced. Competition over scarce natural resources can also increase tensions leading to violence.

“Somalia is a perfect case of [the] disastrous consequences of the combination between climate change and conflict. And how climate change and conflict are working together to worsen an already disastrous humanitarian situation,” said Abdallah Togola, who heads up ICRC’s economic security program in Somalia.

“These extreme weather events due to global warming, climate change, are droughts, floods and cyclones. All these factors now are more frequent, first, and are worse in terms of intensity.”

The ICRC has supported more than 11,000 families who were left in a precarious situation following the prolonged dry season in Somalia this year.

As part of its support, cash grants totaling nearly CHF 900,000 have been sent to these families to help them cope with the harsh conditions and loss of livelihoods.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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