Gender-based violence threatens women’s safety as drought worsens in Somaliland


An international non-governmental organisation has warned that women and girls’ safety in Somaliland is being endangered by gender-based violence due to one of the worst droughts the Horn of Africa is currently experiencing.

ActionAid said extreme hunger and a scarcity of water are impacting 14 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia – with women routinely bearing the burden of having to hunt down food and water during droughts.

The NGO warned this can result in women making lengthy trips through war-ravaged regions where they are more likely to be subjected to violence.

Hibo Aden, women’s rights officer at ActionAid Somaliland, a de facto state in the Horn of Africa, said some families are so “desparate” that girls are being pushed into forced marriages to get food and water in return.

“Last month, the government did an assessment about how the drought affected women and children,” she said.

“They found that cases of gender-based violence had increased 24 per cent, especially when it comes to domestic violence, forced marriage and girls dropping out of education.”

While Sagal Mohamed Shaheed, who is a mother-of-two, is one of many women who have been displaced by the drought. The 40-year-old, who is eight months pregnant with her third child, lives in the Giro-Sumo displacement camp, with her family made to pack up and depart their village after the drought killed off all their livestock.

Ms. Shaheed said: “Our previous life was good. I had 100 livestock and got milk from the livestock to drink, feed the children or sell to buy other needed food items. We had a prosperous life. Now all our livestock is gone. Every morning about five or 10 of the livestock died, until all of them died.

“Every mother is feeling sorrow when her children are eating only once a day and don’t eat the other two times. I feel sorrow every day. I ask myself, ‘when will we be out of this suffering?’ and many other difficult questions.

“Our needs are great, and we can’t afford more than one meal a day and our shelter doesn’t protect us from the sun or the cold.”

Displacement also has an especially harmful impact on women and girls due to this resulting in them facing an increased risk of rape, sexual exploitation, as well as domestic abuse. Women make up some 80 per cent of people displaced by climate change, according to the United Nations.

ActionAid noted Somaliland’s drought has been compounded by Ukraine’s war – with African and Middle Eastern nations being key trading partners with Russia and Ukraine, especially for supplies of wheat, sunflower oil and fertiliser.

More than a quarter of the wheat exports in the world originate from Ukraine and Russia. Communities already living through humanitarian crises and climate disasters, like the Horn of Africa drought, will be disproportionally affected by rising global food and fuel prices.

Citizens in Somaliland told aid workers at the charity, who took a trip there, they had experienced surging food and fuel prices since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February.

Amina Ibrahim Ege, an 80-year-old who is from a far-flung village called Ceel-Giniseed in Gabiley district, said 25kg of rice has surged by as much as 50% from US$20 to around US$30 during the last month, whereas petrol has gone up from US$12 to around US$30 for five litres.

Amina Yusuf Cige, who lives in the village of Xidhinta in Somaliland, has gone through 12 droughts but explained the present humanitarian crisis is the worst she has suffered in her whole life.

“The drought has hit us hard. We have no water. Fuel is very expensive. We used to eat sorghum, rice, pasta and macaroni. But now we do not have the money to buy these foods. We are starving,” she said. “It used to be nice in the past, but now the world is ending.” (Source: Independent UK)