Older people who survived the drought in Somalia

Somalia has faced a severe drought, the worst in 40 years, after experiencing five consecutive missed rainy seasons starting in late 2022 and persisting into 2023.

We bring you stories of some older people who fled their home villages and describe the humanitarian response of HelpAge’s partners who are working to provide the older people with support.


Drought in Somalia

The drought crisis in Somalia has had a severe impact on the livelihoods of the pastoralist population, particularly affecting older people. Many of them have been forced to leave everything behind and flee their homes, seeking refuge in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps, where they are suffering from life-threatening conditions, limited access to healthcare, and living in overcrowded and unhealthy camps, further putting their lives at risk.

While the return of rain to Somalia offers a glimmer of hope, the challenges emerging from the prolonged drought are far from resolved.

Abbas Hussein Ibrahim, a 75-year-old agro-pastoralists lived with his family in Kurtunwarey village in the lower Shabelle region of Somalia. The current drought forced him to flee his home and seek refuge in the Bolow IDP camp in Kahda district, Mogadishu.

“We can no longer farm or raise livestock and are now in need of support for food and healthcare. I have been suffering from damaged nerves for six years and cannot walk without crutches or walking sticks.” He said.

Abbas and his family have been living in this camp for eight months. He has received cash assistance from HIRDO, HelpAge’s partner. With this support, he was able to buy food and other essentials, but he still struggles with his day-to-day needs.

My wife has been suffering from mental health problems caused by the stress and frustration of losing her crops. She sometimes talks to herself at night, it has been very hard for her.

Abbas, 75

Ambiya Ibrahim, 70

Ambiya Ibrahim, 70, lives in Dunguud IDP camp and has problems with her vision, a blood infection and nerve damage to her left leg and hands. She used to live in Adan-Yabal village in Middle Shabelle region but was forced to leave because of the current drought that killed all her 100 goats. Ambiya explained:

I left my village because of the drought. We have had no rain for the last three years. My farming land dried up and I lost all my goats during the drought. Most people in the village lost all their animals.

Like all the older people in the camps, Ambiya is struggling to cope with the drastic changes in her lifestyle. She said:

There are a lot of people who have gone mad after losing all their livestock. I also know families who lost their children because of the drought.

Dugsiya Nur Nunow, a 61-year-old mother of four left her home in Basra village in the lower Shabelle region of Somalia due to the drought crisis. She recalls her life:

“Before the drought, I was an agro-pastoralist and had a large number of cows and goats. Unfortunately, I lost all 200 of my cows and 50 goats due to the drought.”

Living with her children in Bolow IDP camp, she describes how limited essential supplies are already worsening the living conditions.

Life in the camp is hard and desperate. I wish there were more resources available for older people like me and my children.

Dugsiya, 61

Our humanitarian response

HelpAge is working with HIRDO – Horn International Relief and Development Organisation (HIRDO) to support older people living in these difficult and dangerous conditions. Together, we are providing cash, referring older people in need of physical and mental health treatment, and providing counselling.

Cash is particularly important for older people as many don’t receive any food aid and even when they do, it can be difficult to eat. Cash enables them to buy the food that best suits their dietary needs and to buy medication. Older people do not receive a pension in Somalia and are unable to afford medication for chronic illnesses.

Read more older people’s stories on Exposure.

Photography by Nur Mohamed / HelpAge International.

Story by Samson Yigezu / HelpAge International.