Dreaming of Canaan

Children huddle at the entryway, shielding the sun from crawling into a small, round home built of sticks and old clothes. Jimco sits in its shade, taking a rest from the heat of the day in Somaliland. The grandmother of many seems not to mind the curious eyes on her from outside as she starts to tell her story.

Her words hold the same meaning that many others could tell; like the thousand other people who have moved in to this internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. The severe drought over the last two to three years has caused most if not all their animals to die. Their meager savings is now rapidly being spent on food and there is no more income on the horizon.

“The last three years the drought has been bad and every day it gets worse,” Jimco said. “All my livestock died but at least my son has a few goats and sheep left. For me, I lost 20 camels, 10 donkeys and 200 sheep and goats.”

Now living in the makeshift camp, it takes her an hour to reach and return from the natural spring, the whole reason she came here. The water is salty and causes diarrhea, but at least it is water.

For many, they had only just started to recover from the 2011 famine crisis. In the last few years they had struggled to rebuild their livestock and try to prepare for the next drought. World Concern has assisted in the building of many water catchment and storage options. Select community members have been trained on veterinary care practices as well as trainings on farming and assistance with tree planting. Even the creation of community savings groups has spread from village to village.

But all of this only makes so much difference when substantial rain hasn’t come in well over two years.

As another woman in a village several hours drive away put it, “right now it affects the animals but after the animals, it is the people who will die.”

Ismail, head of neighboring village said that his community is no better off than the pastoralists. He, personally, has already lost 90% of his livestock.

“These people who have come, we know them, they now have zero income,” he said. “They’re poverty stricken. There’s a huge responsibility on us to take care of them. We are very worried for ourselves but more so for the IDP’s because we have no way to provide for them.”

Jimco laments not just the loss of her livelihood but also the altering Somali of traditions, a point of great pride.

“Before the droughts, the Somali culture was very good. If a traveler came we would give them anything for free,” she said. “But now if you come we have nothing to give. The drought is even changing our culture.”

As a child, Jimco said the now deserted wasteland was much more like Canaan, flowing with milk and honey.

“When I was young, this was a beautiful area; so much grass and everything was green. There was livestock everywhere and we had an endless supply of milk.”

World Concern is currently preparing a response plan to the drought. Click here to see how you can help someone like Jimco survive the drought.

Story and photos by Christena Dowsett