8 Jul 2011

The struggle to aid starving Somalis in African drought

“I’ve left my children at home because I cannot watch them die.” Save the Children blogs for Channel 4 News on the Somalis left in desperation as they are forced to confront devastating drought.

Africa drought: the daily struggle to aid starving Somalis

Sonia Zambakides, Emergencies Manager for Save the Chidlren’s Somalia and Somaliland programme writes for Channel 4 News.

The situation in Somalia was already very difficult before this drought crisis.

Year in, year out, we are dealing with a situation where it is a daily struggle to meet the humanitarian needs of people living here. Their resilience is already low and people have already struggled through 20 years of conflict. With the failed rains they are suffering even more.

We are witnessing people who have lost everything, who are absolutely desperate and where more and more malnourished children are coming to our feeding centres. We are seeing people who have gone from having very little to having absolutely nothing.

We knew by January 2011 that the situation in Somalia could be even more critical – the rains had failed at the end of 2010 and crisis was potentially looming.

A part of my job is to raise funds so that Save the Children could increase our response to meet the growing needs and that is what I focused on with my colleagues.

Starvation and desperation

Unfortunately, we are back to the “never enough” – there were some funds, but not enough to avert the current situation. It is difficult to fight against the “Somalia fatigue” which I encounter a lot.

“By the time our staff got to the home, two of her children had died.”

There are ongoing chronic emergencies in Somalia all the time which we constantly respond to, so when you try to raise more awareness of an impending crisis, the often asked question is: “Is this one going to be bigger than usual?” And we know now that the answer is clearly, “Yes”.

How do I deal with this?

I try to make sure that I keep the focus on the children, the people who are suffering. I need to keep that for me and then make sure I keep it at that level for others.

A story told to me by one of our staff I can’t get out of my mind. I was told that a mother came to our office and said, “I’ve come for help. I’ve left my children at home because I can’t stay there and watch them die.”

By the time our staff got to her home two of her children had died. I have been haunted by this ever since I heard it. I’m a mother – I cannot even begin to imagine being in a situation like that.

In pictures: drought in the world’s largest refugee camp