As the drought in Somalia worsens, indicators are pointing to the erosion of gains made in girls’ and women’s rights, with the funding gap to support relief efforts underfunded by 92%.

The 2022 Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan requires US$1.46 billion to reach 5.5 million people across all 74 districts of the country, but only US$ 47.5 million is available.

Girls are being forced to drop out of school, putting them at risk of harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and women-run businesses have been hit especially hard, with 98% of them having lost revenue and income due to the high cost of goods. 51% have been forced to close.

As the primary caregivers in the home, women have the responsibility of taking care of children, which can be extremely difficult when their source of income is disrupted.

In Dhobley, Somalia, 42-year-old Faduma arrives at an Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp with 100 frail goats from her home in Wajir, Kenya. These are all that remain of a herd that used to comprise of 300 goats providing her with milk and meat. She has traveled over 200 kilometers with her four children in order to try and sell the remaining goats. “Unfortunately, most of our animals have died due to the drought, and as you can see, these are the remaining few. No one buys our goats because they are weak and so have very little value. We do not have any relatives in this area, and we need assistance,” Faduma said.

Faduma arrives at an IDP camp with her remaining livestock, a fraction of what she had. Due to the drought she lost her animals and the remaining ones are to too frail to fetch a good price at the market.

Missing meals is the harsh reality across many homesteads in Somalia as the effects of the failed rains in the region worsen the drought and women-led businesses crumble.

At Wadajir Camp, 32-year-old Khadija arrived seeking food for the survival of her seven children. “Due to the drought, we lost all our 80 cows and are left with only 15 of the 70 goats we had. With no source of income, I’m unable to put food on the table for my children. Today I was able to get them some breakfast, but now I don’t know what they will eat later. Somedays you have something to eat and somedays you don’t,” Khadija said.

CARE is looking to work together with women who have lost their sources of income by providing new skill development even as the drought persists. In the camps, women are given unconditional cash and voucher assistance to enable them to provide for their children as they continue to source other ways to earn a living.

CARE is also concerned about the impact of the drought on girls and their education.

Even in locations where CARE and other organizations support education, more girls of school-going age were found to be out of school (37%) compared to boys (35%). “The drought has pushed parents to drop their girls out of school as school fees are unattainable due to loss of income, said Iman Abdullahi, CARE in Somalia Country Director. “Most families are now opting to send boys to school at the expense of the girl child. We fear that will be an increase in early marriages and practices like FGM as was witnessed during the COVID-19 lockdowns when schools were closed.”

Due to the lack of water in some schools the sanitary facilities are also closed, making it challenging for the girls as they need to rush home during their monthly cycle.  

Presently CARE is supporting 25 of the 51 IDP camps to construct and rehabilitate temporary learning spaces and is engaged in training teachers at the camps to offer education to children who have arrived with their mothers.

CARE is also providing teaching and learning materials to teachers and children while working with people in the camps to establish Community Education Committees (CECs) which will oversee education in the camps. CARE is also providing monthly incentives to 80 community-employed teachers. Due to drought and loss of income some community members are unable to pay incentives, which in turn has meant some teachers have had to leave the profession and look for alternative sources of income to support their families.

For more on CARE’s work in Somalia follow the CARE Regional platform for East, Central and Southern Africa on Twitter.