The remote village of Usguro is in Somalia's northern Puntland region. The closest town to it is a two hours drive. Puntland's capital, Garowe, is seven hours, and that's on a good day. On a rainy day, it could take much longer.
But there is no rain these days. In fact, it's been two years since the rains last came to this part of Somalia. In Usguro we found a community of 1200 people struggling to cope with what is being described as very acute drought. Their wells were empty, cracking under the oppressive sun. Village elders said we were the first outsiders who've come to see how they are doing.
Somalia is a country still reeling from the effects of violence. Construction is booming in many cities, but basic infrastructure that was destroyed in the war has yet to be rebuilt. Village elders told us they've seen hunger before. In fact, they've been through at least 3 other droughts: in 1975, 1997, and 2010. But when Somalia had a strong central government, Mogadishu would bring in water tankers for immediate relief. Not anymore.
A week ago, Puntland's president Abdiweli Mohammed Ali issued an urgent appeal for international aid. Puntland, like other parts of Somalia, may be on the brink of disaster if relief doesn't come soon. Authorities say 220,000 people already require assistance. The UN's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that across Somalia, 4.7 million people — close to 40 percent of the total population — are in need of help. They could lapse into famine if donations don't start to come in soon.
Author: Zeina Awad