USAID Helps Displaced People in Somalia Plant New Beginnings
When Degan Alinoor and her family arrived at the Buulo-Weyn Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Somalia’s Baidoa District, there was not enough food or water for everyone. They were one of the hundreds of people displaced by the drought who had recently arrived at the camp and resources were scarce. More than one million Somalis, like Degan, have been displaced by drought since 2021.
Life in the IDP camp is extremely hard, especially for women and children. People face huge security and protection challenges and there is a chronic lack of adequate food, water, and health services. Before they fled their home in Diinsoor (a town in the southwestern Bay region of Somalia), Degan’s seven children were already showing signs of malnutrition. Soon after arriving in Buulo-Weyn, two of Degan’s children tragically died from malnutrition-related diseases.
Last year, the United Nations announced a “famine projection” for parts of southern Somalia due to the ongoing drought and subsequent water scarcity, failed crops, and widespread food insecurity. When Degan found out that she had been identified to join a nutrition program introduced by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), she wanted to participate.
USAID helps more than 1.5 million Somalis who are impacted by food insecurity due to the drought, rising food prices and global shortages as a result of the war in Ukraine. Through the Building Resilient Communities in Somalia (BRCiS) Consortium (co-funded by USAID, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the the Qatar Fund For Development), the activity provides a critical package of interventions including nutrition and health support, cash transfers, and access to water for drought affected and vulnerable communities. USAID funding provides market-based approaches to scale up access to clean water and nutritious foods for targeted communities.
USAID through BRCIS pioneered a climate-smart kitchen garden program within IDP camps, and trained more than 600 women to grow nutritious vegetables to support household consumption and sell the surplus for extra income. More than 40% of women and children in Somalia lack dietary diversity, and this often worsens with drought. These gardens have provided a nutrition lifeline for hundreds of displaced families as well as a source of income and livelihood.
Holding onto a bundle of freshly cut spinach and lettuce from her small kitchen farm, Degan reflects on her journey. “I lost two children due to severe malnutrition, but I have slowly recovered from the trauma and suffering we went through,” she says quietly.
Before the latest drought, Degan and her family raised dozens of goats, cows, and donkeys on their farm in Diinsoor. “We could afford basic needs for the family using the resources we had,” said Degan. However, during the first stages of the drought most of their animals died. The family quickly used up their meager stocks of food and when her children showed signs of malnutrition, they fled to Buulo-Weyn IDP settlement to find help.
Degan now grows vegetable seedlings from seeds in jerrycans and in her kitchen garden. She learned to care for the plants with recycled water and harvest her vegetables at the right time. “My children are healthy now and I don’t fear losing them anymore,” said Degan. After each harvest, Degan can sell the surplus in the local market to earn extra income.
Degan’s family also qualified for a three month cash grant, which enabled them to buy essential basic needs, including food and water, and three goats, which provide milk for her children.
In her camp, Degan is also part of the Infant and Young Children Feeding support group. BRCiS established 147 of these groups in IDP camps across Baidoa to help mothers and caregivers provide the right nutritional needs to young children. Degan has also become a nutrition volunteer in her community. “I lost two of my children due to malnutrition, and therefore the training has helped me take good care of my other children and help mothers prevent loss.”
Degan’s story highlights the importance of integrated interventions (kitchen gardens, access to water, food vouchers and infant and child feeding groups) to respond to urgent needs while also building skills to help deal with future shocks.
Despite her devastating year, Degan is hopeful for the future. "My life is so much better than it was when we arrived in Bula-weyn,” says Degan. “I am devastated that I lost my two children due to malnutrition, but I am grateful that my surviving children are now healthy and I am ready to help others in the community".
My children are healthy now and I don’t fear losing them”
- Degan Alinoor