Drought caused at least 250,000 new displacements in 2019. We carried out original research in four countries to find out more.
by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), June 11, 2020
Red sand, a green plastic chair, tea with camel milk. A child approaches and looks at me with curiosity. Holding a yellow jerry can with a red cap, he lifts it up and starts to speak to me. “He’s asking you if you want camel milk”, says Abdi, a local researcher who has been acting as our translator during this phase of our research in Ethiopia.
We are in the town of Warder, in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Curious, I ask the boy some questions. His name is Bashir (anonymised) and he is 10 years old. I take a sip of tea and look again at the jerry can. “How many litres of camel’s milk can that hold?” I ask. “Three litres” Bashir answers. When I ask him where he’s from, my translator’s expression turns to mild bewilderment as he translates the boy’s answer: “I walk about two hours to sell milk here”.
A quick clarification later and it turns out that he actually walks two hours to Warder and two hours back home. Bashir makes this trip every day in order to help his father and his family, who lost many animals to drought and became displaced.
This is the very human face of drought displacement.
Drought is a symptom of climate change
The makeshift tents of those displaced in Ethiopia’s Somali region; the dry canals of Southern Iraq; the crowded urban settlements of Burco, Galkayo and Qardho in Somalia; and the increasingly fragmented farm parcels of the Maradi region of Niger: The four target countries of this research – Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, and Niger – present striking examples of how drought and water scarcity are forcing hundreds of thousands of people to abandon their homes and ways of life.
Understanding how drought affects the environment in these regions of the world is key to understanding how it affects communities. A large majority of the people we interviewed across all four countries feel the climate has changed in recent decades: there is less rain and the weather is much hotter.
Climatic shocks are seen to be increasing in frequency: “Some years ago, droughts happened once every ten years and now we have one every five years in some parts of this region,” said a member of the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau in the Somali region of Ethiopia.
“Some years ago, droughts happened once every ten years and now we have one every five years in some parts of this region.”
In Somalia, one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, temperatures are projected to increase by up to 4.3°C by the end of the century. “There have been big changes and the rainy seasons have been reduced. The situation has become more difficult,” said a member of a local authority in south Galkayo, Somalia.
In the Somali region of Ethiopia, internally displaced people (IDPs) we interviewed agreed that the drought between 2015-2017 was the worst they can remember.
That drought is referred to locally as Afgudhiuye (“nothing to put in your mouth”). In Somalia, the same drought was called Sima, which translates as “equal”, because it was so extreme that everyone was affected.
Read the full story here.