Around 740 families in Salama camp in Abudwak, central Somalia, whose houses were destroyed in heavy downpours on 16 October are living out in the open and struggling to get enough food.
Murayad Salad Ali and her six children moved to higher ground after flash floods washed away their home and belongings. Two days before the disaster she had taken food on credit from a local store. The 36 kilograms of flour, rice and sugar were all destroyed.
“We get food sometimes and sometimes we go hungry. We haven’t cooked anything since yesterday. We sometimes cook rice or tea that we borrow from people. I go to the neighbours and tell them my children are weak from hunger,” she said.
As a widow, whose eldest son is 13, she has no stable income other than occasional domestic cleaning work that has been suspended due to the flooding.
“We have been neglected in this area; we are faced with rain, sun, cold and hardship. We don’t have anywhere to run to. If heavy rainfall starts, we could be washed away and carried away into the valley,” she exclaimed.
Murayad and her family joined the IDP camp in 2017 after the last of their 200 goats and two camels perished in severe drought that hit their village in a remote area of Galgadud region. Her husband died of an unknown illness in 2021.
As a pastoralist, she would normally feel very happy to hear the news of rainfall, but blessing shave turned to torment in the conditions of the IDP camp. She describes her stay in the camp as the most difficult times of her life.
Three of her children are sick and she suspects they might have malaria although she has not been able to seek medical treatment for them.
Another mother, Ubah Abdi Samatar, also had to flee the floods with her seven children and move to an open area.
She said Salama camp was in a low-lying area and prone to flooding. She had a frightening time rescuing her children as their house in the camp was swamped by water.
“The water came from up and down, it washed away everything, but I was taking care of the children and I put them on pieces of wood [to float]. Our house was made of old pieces of clothes and sticks, and we didn’t expect such heavy rainfall,” Ubah said.
Ubah, who is separated from her husband, has set up camp under a tree alongside four other families who have also escaped the floods.
“Every day we get food one way or the other, God feeds us but I am worried about the lack of shelter. We used to eat one day and go hungry the next day before this anyway, but the lack of shelter is a problem,” she said.
Ubah came to the camp from Abudwak in 2020 after the family lost 170 goats to drought. She said the cash aid from humanitarian organisations had stopped in the past three months. She tried taking on laundry services to make ends meet but stopped because of child care duties.
A group of youth volunteers from Abudwak has been helping the vulnerable families by collecting funds from businessmen to provide them with food.
One of the volunteers, Said Abdi Omar, said they had bought 10 plastic shelters that are each being shared by four families. Priority has been given to the elderly people and those with disabilities.
“I think if the rainfall starts again and these families don’t get aid, their situation will not be very good. There could be a humanitarian disaster and even some deaths,” he said.
Salama camp leader, Idris Adan Abdulle, said this was not the first time that families had been displaced from the camp due to floods due to its location beside a valley. He said they have tried to set up water catchment areas to stop flooding in the camp but the torrents of water overflowed the cachments.