FAO works with families in Somalia’s drought affected areas to provide cash transfers and other livelihood assets, giving them the option to stay. ©FAO/Arete/Ismail Taxta

Tough choices for drought-affected families in rural Somalia


Protecting livelihoods keeps families together.

On the outskirts of Beletweyne town in southern Somalia, Maryam Muse Duale breaks up small sticks in her hands, stoking a fire in the dirt to keep her young children warm at night. Maryam has made a flimsy shelter of sticks and cloth; it doesn’t keep the cold night air out. Her children sit on a mat, waiting for food from humanitarian agencies. When it comes, she shares among the children first. Parents eat whatever is left.

Like many other rural Somalis, Maryam is facing a new reality; it is a far cry from her life as an agro-pastoralist just a few months before. The drought in Somalia, which began in late 2020, has only been spreading and deepening.

Not so long ago, Maryam’s family used to raise goats, collect firewood and do some rain-fed farming to support themselves. But after three failed rainy seasons, the land has dried up, her goats are dead, and her family has been left destitute.

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