Mothers in Somalia fight drought and famine to feed their children

Countries in the Horn of Africa are suffering from the ravages of climate change. Not only is the region's drought the worst in decades, but it comes after several consecutive seasons of little rain. Ali Rogin reports on hardest-hit Somalia, where people are fleeing their homes simply to find food and water.

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  • John Yang:

    Countries in the Horn of Africa are suffering the ravages of climate change. Not only is the region's drought the worst in decades, but it comes after several consecutive seasons of little rain. Ali Rogin reports on hardest hit hits hard — hardest hits Somalia, where people are fleeing their homes simply defined food and water. We should note that some of the images of this report are disturbing.

  • Ali Rogin:

    In Somalia, mothers fight an invisible enemy, famine. They traveled thousands of miles to camps for the internally displaced to feed their children. Ayan Muhammad's baby fell sick when she could no longer feed him. So she tracked for days to this camp in southern Somalia.

  • Ayan Muhammad, Internally Displaced Person (through translator):

    Out of a lot of data. We were using a donkey cart to travel. It took us five nights to come here. Thanks to Allah, my son is doing well now. He is being fed through the nose.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Ayan and her son are among the lucky ones. Across the Horn of Africa, four seasons have failed rains have led to the worst drought in 40 years, leaving 29 million people including 2 million children in need of food.

  • Feisal Adan Ibrahim (through translator):

    We've never seen six or more consecutive months of high malnourished patients before. This never used to happen. New displacement camps were being created.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Climate change is at the heart of the crisis. And Somalis have been hardest hit as their livestock die, so too does their way of life.

  • Rania Dagash, UNICEF Deputy Director, Eastern And Southern Africa:

    The cycles of droughts are now more closer together before people had 5, 10 years to recover. Now this is the third drought in a decade in Somalia.

    What is predominantly pastoralists in agro pastoralist communities are simply unable to hold on to these livelihoods for much longer if the impact of these crises and the shocks continue to come so close together.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Rania Dagash is UNICEF's Deputy Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. She recently returned from a visit to Somali displacement camps and hospitals.

  • Rania Dagash:

    I've actually worked in in this region and on grounds for over 20 years. And this is the first time I broke down in every single camp we went to. I cried every single time because there were babies and mostly the under six months who come in last port of call at this point, the lucky ones who made it to these locations and they're connected to therapeutic feeding. We are keeping them alive on the brink really.

  • Ali Rogin:

    One of them is eight-month old Ibrahim sitting on his grandmother's lap in a Mogadishu hospital. A nurse examines his bony limbs before giving him a much needed blood transfusion. Dr. Mahamed Shafi treats hundreds of these tiny patients.

  • Dr. Mahamed Shafi, Director, Gode Hospital:

    It affected the whole community, especially children's, especially the under five children's. The number of admission is have increased it from five patients per day to 15 patients per day.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Compounding the crisis, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Somalia gets most of its wheat from those two countries and other food items and fuel are getting priced out of reach.

    How much worse could this get?

  • Rania Dagash:

    A lot worse and very quickly. When a drought situation gets this bad and we already are in famine prevention mode in terms of our response, the slide is rather quick. We see excess mortality in children. We see the severe malnourished children, which we see now across our centers. They're absolutely packed. And we see depth start to happen very quickly.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Global humanitarian agencies are urging the developed world to help. UNICEF is asking for $850 million. But it remains far short of that goal.

  • Rania Dagash:

    We have only a third of our appeal funded today, and the U.S. administration has been extremely generous so far, but we do need the rest of the world to respond.

  • Ali Rogin:

    Some of the funds are for life saving aid, like water and therapeutic food. But another portion is for building Somalia's climate resilience, like these deep wells in the Garo desert. They sustain both man and beast and help preserve traditional ways of life, to gash as they can be replicated across Somalia.

  • Rania Dagash:

    Doing water and sanitation in a climate resilient way is expensive, but it's certainly we see the benefits of it already.

  • Ali Rogin:

    It's the kind of investment that is difficult to prioritize in a crisis. But we'll ensure children like these don't survive this famine, just to face another one. For "PBS News Weekend," I'm Ali Rogin.

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