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29 April 2016

Devastation in Somaliland: An Eyewitness Account

Sofia Buncy, MH Community Development Officer
Devastation in Somaliland: An Eyewitness Account

On 7th April, Muslim Hands joined Diane Abbott MP and a delegation of leading Muslim charities in Somaliland to raise awareness of the oncoming drought affecting areas of East Africa.

Muslim Hands has been providing emergency relief, water wells, healthcare, education and livelihoods support to the region since 2011. As drought threatens to shatter the country for the second time in five years, we will be stepping up our emergency response.

Sofia Buncy was one of the team members who joined the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development on her trip. She tells us more about the devastation she witnessed there…

‘And we made every living thing from water. Will they not then believe?’ (Qur’an 21:30)

"Living in Britain, I guess I never truly understood the essence of this verse from the holy Qur’an. I understood the concept, but I had never witnessed the destruction which a lack of water can unleash on a nation. Plants, animals, humans; they all depend on this vital substance. No water, no life. 

Five years ago, Somalia was devastated by drought and famine. Now, the absence of water is having a drastic impact on Somaliland, Puntiland and the wider region. We drive over four and a half hours to one of the worst affected areas in the East of Africa, bordering Ethiopia. The route we take makes a dirt track appear luxurious. With no clear path and no road signs, our only guides are the painted stones that show us where not to go. 

Along the way, the consequences of the poor rainfall over the past two years is evident. River beds lay bare and arid and looking at them, it’s hard to believe that water flowed through them not so long ago. Crops that haven’t already been decimated are slowly dying from dehydration. Even plants such as cacti, known for their ability to survive in deserts, are looking worse for wear. People and animals are suffering alike from this lack of sustenance. We see weary camels struggling to keep moving in the scorching heat. 

The roads are lined with animals drained and lifeless due to lack of food and drink. You can see them palpitating as they wait for life to leave them. There is the overwhelming smell of death in the air.

From everywhere, people are flocking to distribution centres, some walking for up to 20 days at a time in hope of another NGO or governmental shipment. I can hear them muttering to themselves: ‘Ya Rabbi, ya Allah, help’. Hope is diminishing as are their frail bodies. 

Mothers with small children try to shelter their young from the heat using their scarves. Babies cry for milk and then the heart-breaking reality unfolds…these mothers are so malnourished they aren't able to produce enough milk to feed their children. Instead they clutch their children closer for comfort. They have nothing else to offer.

For many in this region it is not the first disaster they have witnessed and nor will it be the last. There is the overwhelming feeling that we must start to do things differently if this nation is to survive”.


Muslim Hands UK

Established in 1993, Muslim Hands is an aid agency and NGO helping those affected by poverty, conflict and natural disaster in over 20 countries worldwide.