Somalia: What measures has Mohamud taken to lessen impact from climate change?

By Abdulkadir Fooday

Posted on Friday, 19 August 2022 16:29, updated on Tuesday, 20 September 2022 17:00
Internally displaced Somali woman Habiba Bile holds her surviving goat following severe droughts near Dollow, Gedo Region, Somalia May 26, 2022. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Somalia is in the grips of its worst drought in years, with the FAO warning it will worsen into 2023. What measures is the new government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud taking to minimise the impact?

Records from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicate that Somalia has now been in the grip of a devastating drought for 17 months, setting the requirements for a worsening multi-season drought well into 2023.

The drought, which the UN has said is the worst in years, has since plunged 7.7 million people – half the population – into a food crisis , while nearly a million others have been displaced. Amid this grim situation, the UN warned last week that it was facing a record funding gap to address global humanitarian needs.

War against climate change

Newly-elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is seeking to enhance the war against climate change. When he came into office on 15 May, he appointed Abdirahman Abdishakur  – his opponent in the presidential race  – as a special envoy on drought response.

The new envoy has travelled across the country alongside aid agencies and has also visited Oman and engaged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to mobilise local and international support.

Prime Minister Hamza Barre created the environment and climate change ministry to spearhead long-term solutions to minimise the impact of climate change on the country. The minister for climate change has in turn pledged to implement the planting of one million trees by the end of this year as a first step to counter climate change effects.

Unfortunately, the Somali government does not have the political muscle and understanding to deal with the problem of climate change and its consequences

Some experts say these initiatives by the new administration are a step in the right direction to finding sustainable solutions, while others are critical of the latest developments.

“The establishment of the ministry of environment and climate change will play a critical role in setting up effective strategies for protecting, managing, and preserving living resources and allocating budgets to develop awareness and knowledge among citizens on the importance of the environment,” Mahdi Musse Hassan, a political expert based in Mogadishu, tells The Africa Report.

Hassan says the government should establish a permanent drought management commission to develop long-term sustainable solutions to the adverse climatic conditions facing the country. The commission, he argues, should be empowered to conduct research and advise the government of necessary interventions to avoid the annual calls for international aid support.

Hassan Sheikh Ali, a professor of international relations at the Somali National University and former senior adviser at Villa Somalia, says:  “The impact of climate change in Somalia is real. Unfortunately, the Somali government does not have the political muscle and understanding to deal with the problem of climate change and its consequences… This is a national tragedy.”

Refuge in Mogadishu?

In Mogadishu, thousands of families who have fled the drought are crammed into makeshift camps already bursting at the seams. People who were displaced by the 2011 famine, and subsequent deadline drought in 2017 remain stuck in these camps. Before this current drought, Somalia already had 1 million displaced people living in camps, according to the government and UN records.

Recent heavy rains in Mogadishu further complicate the situation amid fears of disease outbreaks.

Six children died on the way and what’s was that some children died on the back of their mothers who did not notice and kept carrying them.

“At this current moment, the situation is dangerous. One child has just passed away, while two others died yesterday. They both died of measles,” Nadifo Hussein, the leader of eight IDP camps, tells The Africa Report on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

For some, the journey to Mogadishu was compacted by having lost their loved ones along the way.

“Sad and vivid stories about our journey to Mogadishu still linger in my mind. Six children died on the way and what’s was that some children died on the back of their mothers who did not notice and kept carrying them. Once we noticed, we buried them en route and then continued on,” says Khadija Osman, a mother of 10 children.

“I ask that our new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud help us since we [are facing a] severe drought. As you see the children are in the outdoors, we have no shelter yet,” she says.

Somalia has, for the longest time, been on the receiving end of catastrophic climate change effects swinging from cyclical drought spells and destructive floods, which sweep clean farms leaving no reprieve for the agriculture-dependent nation.

As the country continues to battle the ongoing drought, national political goodwill, and sustained support from international partners toward sustainable solutions will be critical in stemming another drought in the coming years. However, that endeavour must be backed by a commitment by major global polluters to offset their carbon footprint along with a willingness to back Mogadishu’s climate change initiatives.

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