Menaced by Al Shabab militants and a worsening drought, thousands of Somalis are abandoning the land to seek refuge in neighbouring Ethiopia.
Hungry and exhausted, Aisha Yussuf Abdi, 40, and her seven young children finally reached Ethiopia at the end of a desperate three-day trek over the border from Somalia.
“We walked and slept on the road,” she says, her eyes flitting nervously as she recalls the journey. “I had to leave my husband and parents behind for my children to have a fighting chance to survive.”
Aisha is amongst some 4,300 Somali refugees who have fled Al Shabab violence and a worsening drought for Ethiopia this year – a growing number of them reaching safety pinched and gaunt through lack of food.
Aisha Yussuf Abdi, 40, and her seven young children fled drought in Somalia
“We walked and slept on the road.”
“People are arriving hungry. A significant number of the children and mothers are malnourished,” says Sandra Harlass, Senior Health Officer for in Ethiopia for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
At the Dollo Ado Reception Centre, refugees are registered and screened for medical problems. Nearly three-quarters of the children under five arriving are malnourished. “It’s a very fragile situation which needs urgent attention to save lives,” says Harlass.
Already in the grip of instability and resurgent violence, Somalia is experiencing its worst drought in seven years. The vast majority of those fleeing come from the regions of Bay, Gedo and Middle Juba, where most families raise livestock or make their living from tilling the land.