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An aerial view of a settlement in OdweineAn aerial view of a settlement in OdweineAn aerial view of a settlement in Odweine

“We celebrated Eid Al-fitr”: the impact of unconditional cash transfers in drought stricken Somaliland

“We celebrated Eid Al-fitr”: the impact of unconditional cash transfers in drought stricken Somaliland
Story30 November 2022Conor O'Donovan

The worst drought in 40 years has turned the landscape of  Caraale Maxamed village in Odweine district into a dust bowl. The soil is parched and any remaining animals are thin and sickly. All the surface water sources have dried up.

The community has been decimated; those with resources left months ago, with only the poorest and most vulnerable families remaining. Nimco Cabdilaahi Cilmi and her children are among those who stayed, and she has been struggling to find enough food and water for her family.

One family's struggle

Nimco is a mother of two boys and four girls, three of whom are out of school as the drought has forced the local school to close. By May 2022, most of her neighbours had packed up their belongings and had left the village. They went in search of water and pasture for their animals elsewhere. Across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, at least 8.9 million livestock have died.

This significant loss of livestock has left 1.6 million children under five without access to milk which is vital for growth. Livestock also provided families like Nimco's with crucial income. "We depended on them as we used to sell milk, meat, sheep or goats."

Nimco speaking with a Concern member of staff
Nimco speaks with Farhan Omar, Concern's Emergency Project Officer at her home in Caraale Maxamud village. Credit: Concern Worldwide/Abdikarim Adam.

Before the drought, we had forty sheep and goats. However, most died from the lack of pasture and water, except for eleven sheep and goats.

Nimco Cabdilaahi Cilmi

Unlike some other families in the village, Nimco does not have a relative in the city who can help her buy water or food. ‘It was a very difficult situation. We couldn't afford to buy water or food, and we couldn't pay our debt." Nimco used to pay for food on credit from the local shops, but due to her accumulated debts, they stopped selling to her.

Support in the face of crisis

Somaliland’s Odweine district is just one of the many areas across the Horn of Africa currently suffering severe drought. In this case, Concern has worked to support families like Nimco’s by providing unconditional cash transfers between May to July 2022. These transfers were funded by EU Humanitarian Aid, through the Somali Cash Consortium. The consortium is led by Concern, and implemented in partnership with six other organisations.

This intervention is part of Concern’s wider strategy to respond rapidly to crises. The aim is to save lives and reduce the suffering of those who are impacted by drought. Cash transfers offer a fast and flexible way to reach these people without compromising their agency.

A camel on the road between Hargesia and Qaloocato in Odweine
A camel on the road between Hargesia and Qaloocato in Odweine. Significant loss of livestock in Somaliland has left many facing hunger. Credit: Concern Worldwide: Ed Ram

The emergency cash transfers reached 1,700 households with $70 USD per month over a period of three months. This income meant programme participants had the autonomy to buy food, water and any other basic needs. Parents like Nimco could make decisions about how best to address their situation.

Nimco's family was one of the households registered to receive cash transfers. The transfers alleviated the intense pressure of her previous situation. The crisis took away her ability to care for her children on a fundamental level. "I am a mother, and I was not able to feed my children. Perhaps, I was able to get food for one or sometimes two meals per day."

Nimco cooks for her children
Nimco cooking lunch with her young daughter. Credit: Concern Worldwide/Farhan Omar

Nimco can now reflect and compare her family's life before and after the intervention. “In contrast, now you can see I am cooking food for my children. Now, I am happy and I have been happy throughout the months Concern has provided cash for me to buy food."  

Empowering families in challenging circumstances

Nimco is now able to cook three meals per day for her and her children. She can afford to buy water and has paid down some of her debt. The timing of the cash transfer also made a huge difference. Apart from basic needs, crisis also takes away the structure and rhythm of life in affected areas like Odweine. Cash transfers empower people to take some of these moments back. 

You cannot imagine how happy (the children) were when they dressed and ate during Eid.

Nimco Cabdilaahi Cilmi

"We received the first transfer a few days before Eid Al-fitr. We could not celebrate Eid if Concern did not transfer the money. I was able to cook for the children and buy a few clothes to let them celebrate." Nimco continues. “Thank you very much Concern Worldwide and people in Europe who donated to help us.”

Nimco's home
Nimco's house at Caraale Maxamed, Odweine District, Togdheer Region, Somaliland. Credit: Concern Worldwide/Farham Omar

Thanks to support from Concern, the European Union and the people of Europe families like Nimco’s can take some parts of their lives back. Whether it is buying water and food, clothing or taking some time to celebrate with family, cash transfers give them a choice. 

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