A truck driver sits on top of the water truck as it pumps water to a water point
A truck driver sits on top of the water truck as it pumps water to a water point. All photos: Joost Bastmeijer

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Is Putting Millions of Lives at Risk in Somalia

Somalia, which imports wheat from Ukraine and Russia, is currently experiencing its worst drought in 40 years.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is worsening a historic drought in Somalia. 

The East African country is currently experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, with the region braced in the coming weeks to endure its fourth consecutive failed rainy season, putting around 28 million people at risk of facing severe hunger. Some parts of Somalia have not seen rain for over two years. 

A man fixes a puncture in the tube that sends the truck's water into a large storage bag. After the bag is full, the inhabitants of the Luglow IDP  settlement can collect water by using a small valve.

A man fixes a puncture in the tube that sends the truck's water into a large storage bag. After the bag is full, the inhabitants of the Luglow IDP settlement can collect water by using a small valve.

With Somalia traditionally importing almost all of its wheat from Ukraine or Russia, the conflict is putting further strain on an already devastating food crisis. In addition, according to Mohammed Ahmed of Save the Children, Somalia is worried about the lack of attention the crisis in the Horn of Africa is receiving. “There are so many competing crises,” Ahmed told VICE World News, “and we are already seeing that the situation in Ukraine has diverted global attention. It is likely to overwhelm the agenda and donors at a critical time for Somalia.” 

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For miles and miles, the side of the road is strewn with animal carcasses. Goats, cows, camels and donkeys die en masse due to the lack of water  and food. This is a disaster for pastoral communities, that make up around 60 per cent of the Somali population, as they rely on their livestock to  generate income and food.

For miles and miles, the side of the road is strewn with animal carcasses. Goats, cows, camels and donkeys die en masse due to the lack of water and food. This is a disaster for pastoral communities, that make up around 60 per cent of the Somali population, as they rely on their livestock to generate income and food.

Almost every region in Somalia is affected by the drought, but the situation in the south of the country is particularly dire. In a camp for internally displaced people near the town of Luglow, workers there are struggling to provide enough food and water. Many people have been forced to walk for days to find sustenance after the drought has killed their farm animals and dried out their farmlands. 

“Before the drought, the rains were sometimes late,” Haleema Abdullahi Abdi remembers. “But we never had three consecutive seasons without  any rain. Because of that, we have lost all of our livestock. We came here to survive. We used to be a happy, dignified family. We had enough money  to not only support our own family, but also other families. It saddens me that now, I’m begging from other people.”

“Before the drought, the rains were sometimes late,” Haleema Abdullahi Abdi remembers. “But we never had three consecutive seasons without any rain. Because of that, we have lost all of our livestock. We came here to survive. We used to be a happy, dignified family. We had enough money to not only support our own family, but also other families. It saddens me that now, I’m begging from other people.”

Somali children have told VICE World News that they eat only one meal of plain white rice in the morning, meaning they get hungry when the evening comes. Sixteen children in the camp near Luglow have died in the past week as a direct result of the drought. 

Before the water trucks arrive, inhabitants of Luglow IDP settlement already line up their empty jerrycans. Most people tie a piece of cloth to their  jerrycan, so they can recognize theirs when they have to fill the canister with water.

Before the water trucks arrive, inhabitants of Luglow IDP settlement already line up their empty jerrycans. Most people tie a piece of cloth to their jerrycan, so they can recognize theirs when they have to fill the canister with water.