25 Aug 2011 12:55
Source: Content Partner // UNICEF
In what looks like a rubbish dump, off of the main road southwest of the capital city Djibouti, a few hundred families set up makeshift tukuls and called them home. They have no water, no toilets, no electricity, and barely any hope.
Bouldougo. The word in Somali means knocked out, and this is where those whose life has been a constant struggle end up. Some have been here for years, others just arrived. Some have fled drought, others conflict. They come from Ethiopia, Somalia or interior regions of Djibouti.
Moumina Ismael, originally from Somalia but born and raised in Ethiopia, fled to Bouldougo a year ago with her mother, her husband and their four children after the drought killed the last of their cattle.
Her older children, aged 5 and 6, go to a Koranic school and spend the rest of their time playing in the camp. Her four-year-old is too stunted to walk. Her youngest, Aboubaker, cries at the sight of strangers.
Moumina’s husband is out of work and they live on whatever little jobs he occasionally gets.
There are at least 400 families in the camp, each with three to four children on average. All have the same story: A life of poverty, hardship and struggle.
And yet, even the little they have now is better than what they left behind.
“I prefer to be here,” says Amina Ali, a mother of four whose husband died while she was pregnant with their youngest child. “After my cattle in Ethiopia died, I have nothing to go back to.”
Amina and her children arrived to Bouldougo just three months ago. The trip took them eight days. She walked while her children took turns riding a donkey.
With her youngest son tied to a sling on her back all day long, Amina now ekes a living fetching wood and selling it, as the need for wood has increased with the increase in fuel prices.
Children in Bouldougo grow up before their age. At nine, Mokou Abdi is already taking care of five younger siblings while her mother works in the market in Djibouti City. Her youngest brother Sadale is barely one year old.
For a country like a Djibouti heavily dependent on food imports, the increase in food and fuel prices, combined with recurrent drought and chronic water shortages, has caused thousands of vulnerable people to sink even further into poverty.
Some 60,000 people are food insecure and 120,000 across the country are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance.
Children are the most affected. One out of five is malnourished, one third is underweight and, according to the latest national estimates, almost half are stunted.
UNICEF is stepping up its response to the crisis, working to meet increasing needs in water and therapeutic food – particularly in the worst affected areas.
Funding remains an issue, however: Out of $5.4 million needed to respond to the emergency, UNICEF has received only $2.9 million. More is needed to make sure that the immediate, but also long-term, needs of children in Djibouti are met.
Back in Bouldougo, UNICEF started delivering safe drinking water this week. A small, but vital, relief in Djibouti’s scorching August heat.