Thirsty and Impoverished with No Rain or Humanitarian Relief in Sight

Published April 5, 2016 by Muna Ali

Mayran Mohamed Abdi and her five children in their hut - Meeladeen, Bari region of Somalia

Last year, Maryan Mohamed Abdi, a mother of six, would have never dreamed of asking anyone for help. Her family owned 150 goats and 85 sheep, which provided them with enough milk, meat, and income to meet their daily needs.

Today, following months of drought caused by two consecutive failed rainy seasons, she remains with 50 goats and 15 sheep, leaving her family in a precarious situation.

Like most pastoral households in northern Somalia, Maryan’s family relies on livestock as a source of both milk and meat. During difficult times, the animals provide them with a safety net as they can sell them in the market and use the proceeds to buy food, water, and medicine, and pay off their debts.

The feast of sacrifice

In the build-up to the Eid al-Adha season, or “the feast of sacrifice”, it’s common practice for pastoralists to sell their livestock in the local market. From there, it is exported for consumption to the Gulf of Arabia states. Last year, inadequate rainfall and meager pastures meant that livestock were weak and their value dropped. Most of the sheep and goats that were sent to markets in big cities, such as Bosaso, were returned to their owners. This reduced the purchasing power of many pastoral families and plunged them into huge debts.

Maryan’s family was no exception.

In search of water

The drought did not only deplete livestock and affect income; it has also resulted in severe water shortages. Most water sources, including underwater tanks (berkads), water dams (ballis), and shallow wells have dried up. People now have to rely on a few boreholes, many of which have become unreliable due to breakdowns caused by overuse.  

Maryan’s husband has to travel 12 km to the nearest shallow well, which is privately owned. In the past few months, the cost of a 20-liter jerry can of water has doubled, a reality that the 600 families who rely on that shallow well can barely afford.

“This is not a price that poor households like us can afford, yet we need to meet our need for water for us and our animals. We purchase water on credit and ask the owner to allow us to pay him after the rainy season when we have sold some livestock,” explains Maryan.

Need for humanitarian assistance

The humanitarian situation in Bari is worrisome, and to date little humanitarian assistance has reached the drought-affected communities. The health status of both humans and animals is deteriorating and more livestock deaths are being reported. After a year of drought, pastoral families have exhausted all the coping mechanisms available to them. They sold their animals that were in good condition and took on debts that they know will take years to pay off.

While some families have migrated to far off lands looking for water and pasture, others like Maryan and her family have stayed behind and are now praying that the clouds will quench their thirst.

What you can do

Adeso is preparing to provide 1,750 families with a cash transfer of $200 to help them meet their immediate food and water needs and be better prepared to recover once the rains come.


You can help – just $7 can provide Maryan’s family with a meal.