Experts fear growing migration and other social and financial stresses in Somaliland could undermine its role in preventing the spread of Islamic militant groups in the Horn of Africa.
“The displacement and dislocation due to the drought is not only a humanitarian disaster but threatens the social fabric of society,” said Michael Higgins of Independent Diplomat, a non-profit advisory group that works with Somaliland’s government to improve its diplomatic efforts.
That “could in turn disrupt security in the entire Horn of Africa region where Somaliland is acting as a buffer and bulwark against Islamic militants such as al Shabaab,” Higgins said.
Bandare said her government had little money to spend on emergency aid.
“Our resources are limited,” the minister said. “We spend a lot of money on peace and security because there are so many dynamics surrounding this country.”
Fortunately, “a lot of people understand the situation we are in, so we are optimistic” about receiving help, she said.
The drought already has forced Somaliland’s government to use money it had allocated for infrastructure and development spend on relief food and water, Bandare said.
“We were in a development stage, doing all kinds of infrastructure and really taking the country forward,” she said. “But now we are in an emergency.”
NO WATER, NO GRAZING
Poor rains since last year have left much of the semi-arid region’s grazing land barren. The country has virtually no irrigation, and no rivers or streams, Bandare said.
“The situation is getting worse by the day. It’s affected thousands and thousands of people,” she said. “And it affects our economy as a nation. The backbone of our economy was livestock.”
She said that climate change means that “drought is now coming every other year or every three years” in the region. “You can imagine the weight it has on our economy,” she said. “There’s no time to recover.”
Deforestation and widespread soil erosion have also contributed to the country’s rainfall problems, she said, noting that rain often now comes either all at once – producing floods – or not at all.
Efforts to harvest and store rainwater in Somaliland, including through a new African Water Facility project, are still in early stages, Bandare said.
Traditionally, spring rains have arrived the last week of March, but in many recent years they have come in late April. With a growing number of families now without access to water or food, delayed rains could mean a surge in loss of life, she said.
“If it doesn’t rain then we are in big, big trouble. Almost two million people are suffering now. Can you imagine if it affects the whole country” of 4.5 million, she asked.
(Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; editing by Zoe Tabary; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)