The region, already plagued by severe water shortages, is now feeling the effects of a war thousands of miles away

The Horn of Africa is facing one of the worst droughts on record.

Some 14 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are at risk of severe hunger and water shortages. In Somaliland, an autonomous region in northern Somalia, it hasn’t rained since April 2021.

Amina Jama Ismail, 40, who lives in Xidhinta village with her eight children, told ActionAid: “Previously there was plenty of rain and water, but now the climate has changed. Every time spring is expected, a drought will replace it.”

She said food and water were the most urgent needs, as people are forced to skip meals and go thirsty, adding: “There are many people who can’t cook tonight, and many others who can’t get water, because water sources are far from them.”

A refugee camp in drought-hit Somaliland CREDIT: Daniel Jukes/ActionAid

According to the UN, more than a quarter of Somalia’s population urgently needs food aid. About 1.4 million children under five are likely to be acutely malnourished. Conditions are expected to get worse, with no rains due for weeks.

Hibo Aden, women’s rights officer at ActionAid Somaliland, said the region’s dependency on imports for products such as spaghetti, flour and rice, made it susceptible to shocks in the global food market.

Global food prices had already reached record highs when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

More than a quarter of the world’s wheat exports come from Russia and Ukraine. Together, the countries are major exporters of cereals that are crucial for food security globally.

Ceel-Dheere community life. CREDIT: Daniel Jukes/ActionAid

Ms Aden added that the situation had become so desperate for some families that girls are being forced to marry in exchange for food and water.

“Last month, the government did an assessment about how the drought affected women and children. They found that cases of gender-based violence had increased 24 per cent, especially when it comes to domestic violence, forced marriage and girls dropping out of education,” she said.

Once filled with over 150,000 barrels of water, this ActionAid implemented earth dam is now completely dry due to failed rains and increasing temperatures CREDIT: Daniel Jukes/ActionAid

Ninety-year-old Amina Yusuf Cige, who lives in the village of Xidhinta in Somaliland, has survived 12 droughts, but told ActionAid that the current situation was the worst she had experienced in her lifetime.

“The drought has hit us hard. We have no water. Fuel is very expensive. We used to eat sorghum, rice, pasta and macaroni. But now we do not have the money to buy these foods. We are starving,” she said.

“It used to be nice in the past, but now the world is ending.”

Amina Ibrahim Ege, 80, from rural Ceel-Giniseed village in Gabiley district, said: “The crisis outside Somaliland is reaching here.”

She explained how 25kg of rice has risen 50 per cent from $20, to around $30 over the past month, while petrol has soared from $12 to around $30 for five litres.