In the village of Abdikadir, in Somaliland, 43 boys live at a school — however it is not a boarding school. Their parents abandoned them here two years ago, knowing they would be fed once a day instead of starving.


ByMartin Cuddihy in drought-hit Abdikadir

Boys lined up in school


Mattresses are not usually piled up in the corner of the classroom. But during disasters people make decisions that can have a lifelong effect.

7127858-3x2-940x627Boys pile up matresses


The boys here are well behaved.


They all dutifully leave their sandals at the front door.

7127752-3x2-940x627Shoes of boys outside school


Because this school is not meant to have permanent residents, volunteers come to supervise


The boys’ teacher, Omar Ale Olou says: “The village elders contribute with upkeep of boys at the school but we have problems with space to accommodate the boys. We do not have enough mattresses for them to sleep.”

Teacher at a school where kids get a meal a day


7127782-3x2-940x627In this room alone, 28 boys sleep every night.


On average, there are three boys for every two mattresses. Some of them sleep on mats, not mattresses.

7127838-3x2-940x627Boy sets up mat to sleep on


“If we can get better sleeping conditions, we will not be cramped in such a small space. If we had the option we would not be this crowded,” student Hassan Mumia Ahmed says.

Boys setting up bedding


The younger boys do not want to show weakness in front of their classmates. They say they have not seen their parents for two years, but refuse to admit to missing them.


7127830-3x2-940x627One of the older boys, Hassan Mumia Ahmed, speaks on their behalf.


“Some of the children do miss their parents. They have not seen them in a very long time, some last saw them when they first came to stay here at this school.”

Boy sits on mattress inside school


Many believe the drought in the Horn of Africa is now worse than the drought of the mid-1980s during which hundreds of thousands of people died because they did not have anything to eat.


Abdikadir is one of the worst-affected areas in Somaliland. It has hardly rained for three years in this region.


The boys’ parents are pastoralists so they have stayed with the herds, looking for pasture.


Ahmed Dahir Alale, the village head, says: “Since the parents left because of the drought we had no choice but to take in their children so that their lives will not be affected.”